Breaking! New Report Reveals Only 38% Of Tropical Forests Can Protect Wildlife From Rising Temperatures Due To Climate Change & Deforestation

According to a new report, only 38% of tropical forests can protect wildlife from rising temperatures as a result of deforestation, increasing the likelihood that vulnerable species will go extinct.

Researchers from the University of Sheffield and University of York in the UK have discovered how deforestation and climate change, two of the biggest drivers of species’ extinction, interact with each other to magnify their effects.

For a thousand years, wildlife throughout the world has moved up and down mountains and towards or away from the equator to cope with changes in the Earth’s temperature. The deforestation of tropical forests is creating a patchwork landscape where natural habitat is disconnected and confined to smaller spaces between a mass of farmland.

Much of our endangered species’ rainforest habitat is also being cleared to graze cattle for the meat and dairy industry. Consumption of meat and dairy directly correlates to the depleation of the ozone layer as a result of methane gass emitted from cattle. Thus aiding to global warming.

The research found that most tropical forest habitat is currently so disconnected that it is not able to provide pathways to cooler climates, meaning wildlife will struggle to escape the impacts of climate change.

Tropical deforestation between 2000 and 2012 has resulted in a vast amount of forest area, bigger than India, losing its ability to link tropical wildlife with a habitat that would protect them from rising temperatures. Today, only 38% of tropical forest allows resident wildlife to avoid climate warming by moving uphill or towards the poles.

“The speed and severity with which the ability of plants and wildlife have to track their optimal climates has been severed. In considering what we can do to solve this problem, we urgently need to fund mechanisms to stop tropical forest loss while also investing in reforestation in places where deforestation has already been severe,” senior author of the study, Professor David Edwards from the University of Sheffield, said in a statement. “The time to act is now, and failure to do so will have catastrophic effects for tropical biodiversity over the coming century.”

This loss of forest means that if species move as far as possible to the coldest places along connected temperature gradients, then under severe warming scenarios, species would still, on average, suffer 2.6 degrees celsius in warming.

“Our findings are cause for concern. We know that a huge amount of tropical rainforest has been and continues to be converted, but also that habitat loss is not the only threat to the natural world,” stated Dr. Rebecca Senior, who carried out this work while at the University of Sheffield’s Department of Animal and Plant Sciences. “Our research is the first to investigate this interaction between habitat loss and climate change at such a large scale. Almost everywhere is getting warmer and for tropical species sensitive to these increasing temperatures, the lack of escape routes to cooler habitats means that warming will likely result in national and global extinctions of vulnerable species.”

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