Climate Change

Wildlife corridors critical in protecting animals from climate change: Study

When species disperse and adapt due to climate change at the same time, faster evolving species prevent slower ones from shifting their ranges, making them extinct

By DTE Staff
Published: Thursday 03 October 2019
A Himalayan marmot in Ladakh. Photo: Getty Images

Wildlife corridors need to be protected as they can help species that adapt slowly to climate change to avoid conflict with faster ones, as they shift ranges, a study has said.

The study, The conflict between adaptation and dispersal for maintaining biodiversity in changing environments was published on September 30 in the Proceedings in the National Academy of Sciences (PNAS) journal.

Species, when faced with the prospect of surviving climate change, can do two things. They can either disperse to more favourable areas or genetically adapt to the new situations or do both.

However, through the study, researchers from the University of British Columbia in Canada and the University of Montpellier in France showed that when species do both things, namely dispersal and adaptation, they often come into conflict.

That is because the faster evolving species prevent lower evolving ones from shifting their range. This, in turn, can lead to the extinction of the slower adaptation species.

The researchers, Patrick L Thompson and Emanuel A Fronhofer, showed this by conducting large-scale computer simulations and using what is called as a stochastic metacommunity model.

Thompson, who is an ecologist from the University of British Columbia said in a press statement that the findings highlighted the importance of wildlife corridors, which could help in preserving biodiversity.

He also said the study findings effectively warned against fragmenting landscapes by constructing linear infrastructure like roads, and fences.

In the absence of linear infrastructure, movement rates are high and this prevents the conflict between slower and faster adapting species, said Thompson.

Through this study, the researchers hope to provide a better understanding of how animal species are affected by climate change, especially how they survive in a changed environment by both, dispersing as well as adapting.

Thompson said if the dynamics of species survival by performing both, adaptation and dispersal, is not documented properly, there is the risk of overestimating the number of species that have survived climate change.

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