News » World

Nearly One-Tenth of Mammals Won't Outrun Climate Change

Nine percent of mammals living in the Western hemisphere will not be able to outrun climate change.


Carrie Schloss, University of Washington research analyst and lead author of a new study in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences said, "We underestimate the vulnerability of mammals to climate change when we look at projections of areas with suitable climate but we don't also include the ability of mammals to move, or disperse, to the new areas."

To determine which mammals were likely to survive and which would likely perish, the group looked at 493 mammals in the Western Hemisphere ranging from a moose that weighs 1,800 pounds to a shrew that weighs less than a dime. They then looked at areas suitable for these mammals to go once their current habitat becomes unlivable.

The group only accounted for climate change. Other factors that cause animals to disperse, such as competition from other species, were not considered.

Josh Lawler, UW associate professor of environmental and forest sciences told the Atlantic Wire, "Our figures are a fairly conservative -- even optimistic -- view of what could happen because our approach assumes that animals always go in the direction needed to avoid climate change and at the maximum rate possible for them."

Lawler told, more than half of the species the research group have in the past projected could expand their ranges in the face of climate change will instead see their ranges contract because the animals won't be able to expand into new areas fast enough.

Most at risk are primates, said, which will likely lose 75 percent of their range because of both climate change and the inability to get to livable places. On average, mammals will lose 40 percent of their range.

According to, several species will actually benefit from climate change including carnivores like coyotes and wolves along with deer and caribou, and armadillos and anteaters.

Lawler said it wasn't climate change that will be the mammal's biggest hurdle. It will be humans. "I think it's important to point out that in the past when climates have changed -- between glacial and interglacial periods when species ranges contracted and expanded -- the landscape wasn't covered with agricultural fields, four-lane highways and parking lots, so species could move much more freely across the landscape."