Rethinking species' ability to cope with rapid climate change

Authors

  • CHRISTIAN HOF,

    1. Department of Biology, Center for Macroecology, Evolution and Climate, University of Copenhagen, Universitetsparken 15, DK-2100 Copenhagen Ø, Denmark
    2. Department of Biodiversity and Evolutionary Biology, National Museum of Natural Sciences, CSIC, José Gutiérrez Abascal 2, 28006 Madrid, Spain
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    • 1Contributed equally.

  • IRINA LEVINSKY,

    1. Department of Biology, Center for Macroecology, Evolution and Climate, University of Copenhagen, Universitetsparken 15, DK-2100 Copenhagen Ø, Denmark
    2. Department of Biodiversity and Evolutionary Biology, National Museum of Natural Sciences, CSIC, José Gutiérrez Abascal 2, 28006 Madrid, Spain
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    • 1Contributed equally.

  • MIGUEL B. ARAÚJO,

    1. Department of Biodiversity and Evolutionary Biology, National Museum of Natural Sciences, CSIC, José Gutiérrez Abascal 2, 28006 Madrid, Spain
    2. Rui Nabeiro Biodiversity Chair, CIBIO, University of Évora, Largo dos Colegiais, 7000 Évora, Portugal
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  • CARSTEN RAHBEK

    1. Department of Biology, Center for Macroecology, Evolution and Climate, University of Copenhagen, Universitetsparken 15, DK-2100 Copenhagen Ø, Denmark
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Christian Hof, Department of Biology, Center for Macroecology, Evolution and Climate, University of Copenhagen, Universitetsparken 15, DK-2100 Copenhagen Ø, Denmark, tel. +49 176 205 189 27, fax +45 35 32 12 50, e-mail: chof@bio.ku.dk

Abstract

Ongoing climate change is assumed to be exceptional because of its unprecedented velocity. However, new geophysical research suggests that dramatic climatic changes during the Late Pleistocene occurred extremely rapid, over just a few years. These abrupt climatic changes may have been even faster than contemporary ones, but relatively few continent-wide extinctions of species have been documented for these periods. This raises questions about the ability of extant species to adapt to ongoing climate change. We propose that the advances in geophysical research challenge current views about species' ability to cope with climate change, and that lessons must be learned for modelling future impacts of climate change on species.

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