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World’s most wildlife-rich areas could be hardest hit by global warming

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World's most wildlife-rich areas could be hardest hit by global warming
Turtles are among the thousands of species at threat from a rise in global temperatures (Picture: Getty)

Half the animals and plants living in the world’s most nature-rich areas are at risk of dying out from climate change.

Even if goals to limit global warning are met, about a quarter of species could still become extinct, scientists have warned.

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Their new study revealed the impact of climate change on important natural regions including the Amazon and the Galapagos Islands.

It found that hitting a target of limiting global warming to no more than 2C above pre-industrial levels could save half the species at risk.

Giant pandas, snow leopards and polar bears are among the animals that could see their territory and food supplies reduced.

A group of Galapagos marine iguanas (Amblyrhynchus cristatus) sunbathe at Tortuga Bay beach, in Santa Cruz Island, Galapagos, Ecuador, on January 20, 2018. Ecuador's growing tourism threatens the country's fragile paradises. Galapagos islands, declared a World Natural Heritage by UNESCO, limited tourism clashes with President Lenin Moreno's
The Galapagos Islands could be hit hard by rising sea levels (Picture: Getty)

The team of researchers looked at the impact of temperature rises and rainfall changes in different climates, affecting almost 80,000 species in 35 natural areas.

Those changes could put pressure on African elephants, which drink large amounts of water, and tigers in Asia which could lose 96% of breeding grounds to rising seas.

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If temperature rises are limited to 2C, which would require further action from governments, the impact on wildlife would be lessened but still wide-ranging.

In the Mediterranean, 30% of most species would be at risk of dying out, while more than a third (36%) of plants could vanish.

Affected wildlife could include turtles, as warmer temperatures lead to more eggs hatching as females or failing to hatch altogether, while rising seas and storms can destroy nesting sites.

An impala enjoys the shade of fever tree on November 5, 2010 in the Gorongosa National Park in Mozambique. Gorongosa National Park is at the southern end of the Great African Rift Valley in the heart of central Mozambique. The 3,770 square kilometer park includes the valley floor and parts of surrounding plateaus. Rivers originating on nearby 1863-meter Mount Gorongosa water the plain. Seasonal flooding and waterlogging of the valley, which is composed of a mosaic of different soil types, creates a variety of distinct ecosystems. Grasslands are dotted with patches of acacia trees, savannah, dry forest on sands and seasonally rain-filled pans and termite hill thickets. The plateaus contain miombo and montane forests and a spectacular rain forest at the base of a series of limestone gorges. This combination of unique features at one time supported some of the densest wildlife populations in all of Africa, including charismatic carnivores, herbivores and over 500 bird species. But large mammal numbers were reduced by as much as 95% and ecosystems stressed during Mozambique's long civil conflict at the end of the 20th century. The Carr Foundation/Gorongosa Restoration Project, a U.S. not-for-profit organization, has teamed with the Government of Mozambique to protect and restore the ecosystem of Gorongosa National Park and to develop an ecotourism industry to benefit local communities. The Mozambican Civil War lasted from 1977 to 1994. The violence increased in and around the Park after that. In 1983 the park was shut down and abandoned. For the next nine years Gorongosa was the scene of frequent battles between opposing forces. Fierce hand-to-hand fighting and aerial bombing destroyed buildings and roads. The park's large mammals suffered terrible losses. Both sides in the conflict slaughtered hundreds of elephants for their ivory, selling it to buy arms and supplies. Hungry soldiers shot many more thousands of zebras, wildebeest, buffalos, and other ungulates. Lions (
A rise in global temperatures would be bad news for Africa’s wildlife (Picture: Getty)

Lead researcher Professor Rachel Warren from the University of East Anglia said: ‘We studied 80,000 species of plants, mammals, birds, reptiles and amphibians and found that 50% of species could be lost from these areas without climate policy.’

‘However if global warming is limited to 2C above pre-industrial levels this could be reduced to 25%.’

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Dr Stephen Cornelius from WWF-UK said: ‘This is a global problem, it shows that across 35 priority places scattered all over the world, all of them over the last 50 years, across all the seasons, have seen temperatures rise.

‘There’s no area that will be unaffected, though there are some that are more vulnerable, and there are some areas that are more resilient than others.’

The study is published in the journal Climatic Change, ahead of Earth Hour, a global environmental event organised by WWF which takes place on March 24.

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