Published in Nature Ecology & Evolution, BioShift is the closest research there is to a meta-analysis on biodiversity following the global thermal changes.
Is it or not a meta-analysis?
When you look at the numbers of species they analyzed, the word “meta-analysis” seems only fair. More than 12,000 species of bacteria, fungi, plants, and animals and over 30,000 habitat shifts were compared.
But percentage-like, it is only 0.6 % of all known life on the planet. Researchers have revisited 258 studies for their analysis, but the only species they covered are the ones of most interest for us, humans. Still, that’s a start.
And the results are worrisome. Life is migrating towards the poles, in search of a cooler world. Marine species are doing it six times faster than land species. Land species are far behind marine species mostly because of us, humans.
Why do marine species migrate faster than land species?
First, because water traveling is much easier since there are no cities and transformed lands in the way. We stand in the way of their migration, sometimes making them migrate in the wrong direction, where survival is not an option since it is hotter than the place they are leaving from.
Another reason for their slowness could be the fact that air is a poorer heat conductor than water. It is 25 times less effective. This gives the animals the chance to adapt to temperature changes. Still, land species are moving towards the poles, just like marine species do, saying global warming doesn’t do them any good.
Also, animals sometimes choose to perish instead of fleeing and survive. It happened with half of the species that lived when the Permian-Triassic Extinction occurred. By reasons that contradict the inherent survival instinct, species decide to stay in their habitat. Or, maybe, they trust their instinct too much and feel they can make it.
What is going on with modern species?
As always, insects remain the most adaptable species. And not just them, but the diseases they also carry. They are getting closer to the poles at 18.5 kilometres per year. While land animals are moving at 1.8 meters per year. The reptiles are fleeing for the equator at 6.5 meters a year.
The species living in the mountains are the most endangered. They can’t leave the mountains, and to travel towards the poles, will become at some point impossible for them. They will go as higher on the mountain as they can, but at some point, there will be no cooler place for them to go to. They will have to adapt to the continuous warming or go extinct.
“These complex interactions need to be accounted for to improve scenarios of biodiversity redistribution and its consequences on human well-being under future climate change,” the researchers say.