'Dramatic decline' warning for plants and animals

Hourglass tree frog The study looked at the impacts of rising temperatures on nearly 50,000 common species

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More than half of common plant species and a third of animals could see a serious decline in their habitat range because of climate change.

New research suggests that biodiversity around the globe will be significantly impacted if temperatures rise more than 2C.

But the scientists say that the losses can be reduced if rapid action is taken to curb greenhouse gases.

The paper is published in the journal, Nature Climate Change.

An international team of researchers looked at the impacts of rising temperatures on nearly 50,000 common species of plants and animals.

They looked at both temperature and rainfall records for the habitats that these species now live in and mapped the areas that would remain suitable for them under a number of different climate change scenarios.

The scientists projected that if no significant efforts were made to limit greenhouse gas emissions, 2100 global temperatures would be 4C above pre-industrial levels.

In this model, some 34% of animal species and 57% of plants would lose more than half of their current habitat ranges.

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According to Dr Rachel Warren from the University of East Anglia, this would have major impacts for everyone on the planet.

"Our research predicts that climate change will greatly reduce the diversity of even very common species found in most parts of the world. This loss of global-scale biodiversity would significantly impoverish the biosphere and the ecosystem services it provides," she said.

"There will also be a knock-on effect for humans because these species are important for things like water and air purification, flood control, nutrient cycling, and eco-tourism."

The projected impacts on species will be felt more heavily in some parts of the world such as sub-Saharan Africa, Central America, the Amazon region and Australia.

However the researchers say that if global emissions of greenhouse gases are cut rapidly then the impact on biodiversity could be significantly curbed. If global emissions reach their peak in 2016 and temperature rises are held to 2C, then losses could be cut by 60%.

"The good news is that our research provides new evidence of how swift action to reduce CO2 and other greenhouse gases can prevent the biodiversity loss by reducing the amount of global warming to 2C rather than 4 degrees, said Dr Warren.

"This would also buy time – up to four decades - for plants and animals to adapt to the remaining 2 degrees of climate change."

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