Climate Change’s Impact On Biodiversity Could Be Overstated By Computer Simulations

by Aruna on  November 10, 2009 at 11:32 AM Environmental Health   - G J E 4
Climate Change’s Impact On Biodiversity Could Be Overstated By Computer Simulations
Scientists have suggested in a new research that some large-scale computer simulations may be overestimating the impact of climate change on biodiversity in some regions.

According to a report by BBC News, the researchers said models that analyze vast areas often failed to take into account local variations, such as topography and microclimates.

Local-scale simulations, which did include these factors, often delivered a more optimistic outlook, they added.

One of the studies looked at the fate of plant species in the Swiss Alps.

"A coarse European-scale model (with 16km by 16km grid cells) predicted a loss of all suitable habitats during the 21st Century," according to the researchers.

"Whereas a model run using local-scale data (25m by 25m grid cells) predicted (the) persistence of suitable habitats for up to 100 percent of plant species," they added.

Co-author Shonil Bhagwat, a senior research fellow at the University of Oxford, UK, said when vegetation was looked at on a smaller scale, scientists saw a different picture.

"For example, smaller plots give data on microclimatic variations, whereas large-scale models predict (uniform) changes throughout the landscape," she said.

Advances in computing power meant that more large-scale datasets were being made available to scientists, Dr Bhagwat explained.

"There is more interest in predicting widespread, large-scale effects; that is why coarser-scale models are normally used," she told BBC News.

"However, the changes in communities of vegetation occur at a much smaller scale, she added.

According to Dr Bhagwat and co-author Professor Kathy Willis, "These studies highlight the complexities that we are faced with trying to model and predict the possible consequences of future climate change on biodiversity."

The researchers called for more micro-scale studies to be carried out that complement the overall picture presented by larger models.

However, they added that the overall picture for biodiversity loss was still bleak, especially once the rate of habitat loss and fragmentation was taken into account.

"Predicting the fate of biodiversity in response to climate change combined with habitat fragmentation is a serious undertaking fraught with caveats and complexities," they observed.

Source: ANI

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