- Faculty & Staff
As though the physical discomfort, extreme weather events and compromised food security were not enough, new research is indicating that small temperature increases associated with global warming could trigger significant loss in species biodiversity; and the Caribbean is not exempt. Indeed, from the study (“Endemism increases species’ climate change risk in areas of global biodiversity importance”) – undertaken by 15 global experts, including the region’s own Dr. Shobha Maharaj (UWI St. Augustine, FST graduate), and published in Biological Conservation – the Caribbean is among the most vulnerable, having regard to its current high level of endemism, that is, having plants and animals that are both native and restricted to the region. Alarmingly, the study suggests that at 3C warming, 100% of island endemics are likely to face a ‘high extinction risk’ as, unlike species on continents, as temperature increases, island species do not have the geographic space to track suitable cooler climate conditions as these shift polewards. On islands with mountains, species may initially compensate for increasing temperatures by climbing to higher altitudes – but the triangular shape of mountains implies that the higher a species climbs, smaller and smaller areas become available for survival.
Published: June 10, 2021