Change in climate changes the way in which species interact with one another - a reality applicable not just to today or to the future, but also to the past, claims a new study.
Lead author paleoecologist Jessica Blois of the University of California, Merced said that their team found that, at all time scales, climate change can alter biotic interactions in very complex ways.
She said that if they don't incorporate this information when they are anticipating future changes, they are missing a big piece of the puzzle.
Blois asked for input from researchers who study "deep time," or the very distant past, as well as those who study the present, to help make predictions about what the future holds for life on Earth as climate shifts.
Blois said that scientists are seeing responses in many species, including plants that have never been found in certain climates- like palms in Sweden-and animals like pikas moving to higher elevations as their habitats grow too warm.
She asserted that the worry is that the rate of current and future climate change is more than species can handle.
The researchers are studying how species interactions may change between predators and prey, and between plants and pollinators, and how to translate data from the past and present into future models.
Looking back, there were big changes at the end of major climate change periods, such as the end of the last Ice Age when large herbivores went extinct.
Without those mega-eaters to keep certain plants at bay, new communities of flora developed, most of which in turn are now gone.
Blois said that people used to think climate was the major driver of all these change but it's not just climate.
She added that it's also extinction of the megafauna, changes in the frequency of natural fires, and expansion of human populations and that they're all linked.
The findings have been published in the journal Science.