Climate change can threaten species and extinctions can impact ecosystem health. It is therefore of vital importance to assess to which degree animals can respond to changing environmental conditions.
An international team of 64 researchers led by Viktoriia Radchuk, Alexandre Courtiol and Stephanie Kramer-Schadt from the Leibniz Institute for Zoo and Wildlife Research (Leibniz-IZW) evaluated more than 10,000 published scientific studies.
The results of their analysis are worrisome: Although animals do commonly respond to climate change, such responses are in general insufficient to cope with the rapid pace of rising temperatures and sometimes go in wrong directions.
In wildlife, the most commonly observed response to climate change is an alteration in the timing of biological events such as hibernation, reproduction or migration.
The researchers extracted relevant information from the scientific literature to relate changes in climate over the years to possible changes in phenological and morphological traits.
Next, they evaluated whether observed trait changes were associated with higher survival or an increased number of offspring.
The scientists hope that their analysis and the assembled datasets will stimulate research on the resilience of animal populations in the face of global change and contribute to a better predictive framework to assist future conservation management actions.