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19 Dec 2012: Climate Already Altering
Ecosystems and Biodiversity, Report Says

Climate change is causing plant and animal species across the U.S. to shift their geographic ranges and life events — from flowering to migration — are being transformed at a faster rate than observed even a few years ago, a new analysis by 60 scientists says. According to the report, “Climate Change on Biodiversity, Ecosystems, and Ecosystem Services,” some terrestrial species are moving up in elevation at rates 2 to 3 times greater than previously believed, while the range shifts for some marine species have been even greater. These rapid changes in ranges, distributions, and life cycles are forcing species to interact in ways that they never have before and could alter the timing and availability of natural resources critical to biodiversity and ecosystem health. “These geographic range and timing changes are causing cascading effects that extend through ecosystems... creating mismatches between animals and their food sources,” said Nancy Grimm, a scientist at Arizona State University and lead author of the report. According to the report, which was also led by researchers from the U.S. Geological Survey and the National Wildlife Federation, there is evidence that climate change is responsible for population declines and increased extinction risks for some species. Increasingly mild winters are also profoundly altering ecosystems, leading to outbreaks of pests that have killed large areas of forest in the U.S. West, the report said.

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