Most species of birds, amphibians and corals at greatest risk from climate change are not currently considered threatened with extinction and may be left out of conservation actions, according to a study released Monday.
Researchers from the International Union for the Conservation of Nature (IUCN) reported in the U.S. journal Plos One that they examined the findings of more than 100 scientists over the last five years and looked for the biological and ecological characteristics that make species more or less sensitive or adaptable to climate change.
Up to 83 percent of birds, 66 percent of amphibians and 70 percent of corals that were identified as “highly vulnerable to the impacts of climate change are not currently considered threatened with extinction” on the IUCN Red List of Threatened Species. They are therefore unlikely to be receiving focused conservation attention, according to the study.
“The findings revealed some alarming surprises,” lead author Wendy Foden said in a statement.
“We hadn’t expected that so many species and areas that were not previously considered to be of concern would emerge as highly vulnerable to climate change. Clearly, if we simply carry on with conservation as usual, without taking climate change into account, we’ll fail to help many of the species and areas that need it most,” Foden said.
Up to 9 percent of all birds, 15 percent of all amphibians and 9 percent of all corals that were found to be highly vulnerable to climate change are already threatened with extinction. These species, which are threatened by unsustainable logging and agricultural expansion, need urgent conservation action in the face of climate change, according to the researchers.
The study also presented the first global-scale maps of vulnerability to climate change for the assessed species groups.
It showed that the Amazon hosts the highest concentrations of the birds and amphibians that are most vulnerable to climate change, and the Coral Triangle of the central Indo-West Pacific contains the majority of climate change vulnerable corals.
“This is a leap forward for conservation,” said Jean-Christophe Vie, deputy director of the IUCN Global Species Program and a co- author of the study. “As well as having a far clearer picture of which birds, amphibians and corals are most at risk from climate change, we now also know the biological characteristics that create their climate change ‘weak points.’ This gives us an enormous advantage in meeting their conservation needs.”