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Climate Change Models May Underestimate Extinction, Study Shows

By Rudy Ruitenberg (Businessweek) - January 4, 2012

Climate change projections may “grossly” underestimate the extinction of animal and plant varieties because the models don’t account for species movement and competition, U.S. researchers said.

Animals and plants that can adjust to climate change have a competitive advantage, while animals with small geographic ranges and specific habitat requirements are likely to go extinct under climate change, according to a study led by Mark Urban, an assistant professor at the University of Connecticut.

Species are already moving in response to climate change, with some animals and plants migrating to higher altitudes, the university wrote in an online statement. Urban, with University of Washington’s Josh Tewksbury and Kimberly Sheldon, created a mathematical model to include varying rates of species migration and different rates of inter-species competition.

“In real life, animals move around, they compete, they parasitize each other and eat each other,” Urban was cited as saying in the statement. “The majority of our predictions don’t include these important interactions.”