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A globally coherent fingerprint of climate change impacts across natural systems.

Nature

Probability, Population Dynamics, Models, Theoretical, Greenhouse Effect, Geography, Ecosystem, Databases, Factual, Climate, metabolism, Carbon Dioxide, Biological Evolution, Animals

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      Abstract

      Causal attribution of recent biological trends to climate change is complicated because non-climatic influences dominate local, short-term biological changes. Any underlying signal from climate change is likely to be revealed by analyses that seek systematic trends across diverse species and geographic regions; however, debates within the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) reveal several definitions of a 'systematic trend'. Here, we explore these differences, apply diverse analyses to more than 1,700 species, and show that recent biological trends match climate change predictions. Global meta-analyses documented significant range shifts averaging 6.1 km per decade towards the poles (or metres per decade upward), and significant mean advancement of spring events by 2.3 days per decade. We define a diagnostic fingerprint of temporal and spatial 'sign-switching' responses uniquely predicted by twentieth century climate trends. Among appropriate long-term/large-scale/multi-species data sets, this diagnostic fingerprint was found for 279 species. This suite of analyses generates 'very high confidence' (as laid down by the IPCC) that climate change is already affecting living systems.

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      Most cited references 18

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      Ecological responses to recent climate change.

      There is now ample evidence of the ecological impacts of recent climate change, from polar terrestrial to tropical marine environments. The responses of both flora and fauna span an array of ecosystems and organizational hierarchies, from the species to the community levels. Despite continued uncertainty as to community and ecosystem trajectories under global change, our review exposes a coherent pattern of ecological change across systems. Although we are only at an early stage in the projected trends of global warming, ecological responses to recent climate change are already clearly visible.
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        Climate Extremes: Observations, Modeling, and Impacts

         D. Easterling (2000)
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          Reorganization of North Atlantic marine copepod biodiversity and climate.

          We provide evidence of large-scale changes in the biogeography of calanoid copepod crustaceans in the eastern North Atlantic Ocean and European shelf seas. We demonstrate that strong biogeographical shifts in all copepod assemblages have occurred with a northward extension of more than 10 degrees latitude of warm-water species associated with a decrease in the number of colder-water species. These biogeographical shifts are in agreement with recent changes in the spatial distribution and phenology detected for many taxonomic groups in terrestrial European ecosystems and are related to both the increasing trend in Northern Hemisphere temperature and the North Atlantic Oscillation.
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            Author and article information

            Journal
            10.1038/nature01286
            12511946

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