November 25, 2013
"These small habitats, known as microhabitats, include tree holes, logs, and plants that exist within the rainforest strata and they provide cooler temperatures within them than the air that surrounds them," explains lead researcher Brett Scheffers with James Cook University.
Scheffers and his team studied whether or not such microhabitats would truly provide cool refuges for animals during extreme weather by looking at 15 species of amphibians and reptiles on Luzon Island in the Philippines.
"Microhabitats reduced mean temperature by 1–2 degrees Celsius and reduced the duration of extreme temperature exposure by 14–31 times," the researchers write. They found that not only were microhabitats cooler, but temperatures also fluctuated less. Moreover, even as temperatures outside the microhabitats increased, the insides of microhabitats warmed considerably more slowly.
"Microhabitats have extraordinary potential to buffer climate and likely reduce mortality during extreme climate events," the scientists add, an assessment that agrees with other studies across the tropics.
Nonetheless, microhabitats are meant as short-term refuges; they could be utilized to survive periodic heatwaves, but not climatic upheaval. If average temperatures rise too high, species will be forced to migrate to a different climate—such as to higher altitudes— in order survive instead of depending on microhabitats for short term refuges. However scientists fear that many species will not be able to migrate quickly enough and will be pushed to extinction.
"Our study is a cautionary tale. Biodiversity is resilient and adaptive, however, with future forecasts predicting annual temperature increases of up to 4-6 degrees Celsius and in some areas extreme temperatures that surpass 40 degrees Celsius, there are simply no habitats cool enough to safeguards species from such extremes," notes Sheffers.
The world's government have pledged to keep global average temperatures from rising 2 degrees Celsius above pre-industrial levels, however experts say nations are currently moving too slowly to hit that target.
A glass frog in Costa Rica. Photo by: Rhett A. Butler.
- Brett R. Scheffers, David P. Edwards, Arvin Diesmos, Stephen E. Williams, Theodore A. Evans. (2013) Microhabitats reduce animal’s exposure to climate extremes. Global Change Biology.
|AUTHOR: Jeremy Hance joined Mongabay full-time in 2009. He currently serves as senior writer and editor. He has also authored a book.|
Climate change could kill off Andean cloud forests, home to thousands of species found nowhere else
(09/18/2013) One of the richest ecosystems on the planet may not survive a hotter climate without human help, according to a sobering new paper in the open source journal PLoS ONE. Although little-studied compared to lowland rainforests, the cloud forests of the Andes are known to harbor explosions of life, including thousands of species found nowhere else. Many of these species—from airy ferns to beautiful orchids to tiny frogs—thrive in small ranges that are temperature-dependent. But what happens when the climate heats up?
Climate change scattering marine species
(08/08/2013) Rising ocean temperatures are rearranging the biological make-up of our oceans, pushing species towards the poles by 7kms every year, as they chase the climates they can survive in, according to new research. The study, conducted by a working group of scientists from 17 different institutions, gathered data from seven different countries and found the warming oceans are causing marine species to alter their breeding, feeding and migration patterns.
Climate change to halve habitat for over 10,000 common species
(05/13/2013) Even as concentrations of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere hit 400 parts per million (ppm) for the first time in human history last week, a new study in Nature Climate Change warns that thousands of the world's common species will suffer grave habitat loss under climate change.
|Get Mongabay articles emailed to your inbox|
|Enter your email address:|