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Flora and Fauna | Environment

Which Mammals Will Adapt to Climate Change?


BOISE, Idaho — A study released Monday by the U.S. National Academy of Sciences concludes that some mammals — especially moles, shrews, and primates — might be unable to keep pace with a changing climate.

The study looked at nearly 500 species in North and South America. It determined that close to 10 percent on average will not be able change habitat to keep pace with climate change. Survival in part could depend on the animals ability to keep pace with climate change.

Co-author Carrie Schloss is a researcher at the University of Washington. She says the animals most at risk live in tropical forests like those found in South America. Mammals living in the Northwest seem to be better suited to adapt to climate change. Schloss says based on her research only 4 to 5 percent in Oregon and Washington are unlikely to keep pace and about 7 percent in Idaho.

Carrie_Schloss
Carrie Schloss

For the Northwest, species most at risk are smaller plant eating mammals like moles and shrews. Black bears, mountain lions, elk and deer are better suited to survive climate change. Those types of animals are usually able to adapt or move to favorable locations as needed.

While the Northwest enjoyed better survival estimates, animals that live in South and Central America are 35-50 percent less likely to keep pace with climate change. Hemisphere-wide, Schloss says primates, shrews and moles are least able to survive. Examples of such mammals with troubled futures include the Merriam’s pocket mouse in the southwestern U.S. and Mexico, the barren ground shrew in the Arctic of North America, and South American primates that include several squirrel monkey species and the cotton-top tamarin.

When it comes to species that should do well across the western hemisphere as the climate warms, the study identified carnivores (wolverines, coyotes, Arctic foxes, wolves), hooved animals (moose, deer, elk) and species in the order that contains sloths, armadillos and anteaters.

Leona Svancara with Idaho Fish and Game says the research is valuable because few studies like this have been done in recent years. The reason this study is important is because it took many different climates into account.

Svancara says most studies like this one in recent years used just one climate model based on best estimates. This study by Schloss used data from 10 different climate models. Combined with other studies with similar results, it gives scientists like Svancara a better idea of what might actually happen in 70 to 100 years.

PNAS Climate Change Impacts on Mammals

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