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Climate change could outpace mammals

10 percent of mammals won't be able to move fast enough to outpace climate change

SEATTLE | May 15, 2012

Nearly 10 percent of the Western Hemisphere's mammals won't be able to move swiftly enough to outpace climate change and reach safe havens, researchers say.

In certain regions that figure could go as high as 40 percent, scientists at the University of Washington reported Monday.

Researchers have identified areas suitable for mammals likely to be displaced as climate change makes their current habitats inhospitable, then unlivable, but a new study considers whether mammals will actually be able to move to those areas before they are overrun by climate change.

"We underestimate the vulnerability of mammals to climate change when we look at projections of areas with suitable climate but we don't also include the ability of mammals to move, or disperse, to the new areas," Carrie Schloss, a research analyst in environmental and forest sciences, said.

The analysis looked at 493 mammals in the Western Hemisphere ranging from a moose that weighs 1,800 pounds to a shrew that weighs less than a dime.

The researchers took into account human-made obstacles such as cities and crop lands that animals would encounter in moving in response to climate change.

"I think it's important to point out that in the past when climates have changed -- between glacial and interglacial periods when species ranges contracted and expanded -- the landscape wasn't covered with agricultural fields, four-lane highways and parking lots, so species could move much more freely across the landscape," co-author Josh Lawler said.

2012 United Press International, Inc. All Rights Reserved.

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