Greatest Global Warming Impact on Life in Tropics, Even Though Poles Have Higher Temperature Increase


photo: Kevin Walsh/Some Rights Reserved

If you even only casually follow the issue of climate change, you're probably aware that the polar regions are warming significantly faster than the tropics. Now, a new report in Nature shows that even though this is the case, the greatest impact on life will still be in the tropics. It all has to do with metabolic rates.Professor Raymond Huey, of the University of Washington, says, "Just because the temperature change in the tropics is small doesn't mean the biological impacts will be small. All of the studies we're doing suggest the opposite is true."

The reason for this is because small temperature changes can push animals that have evolved to live in tropical conditions, where there are small seasonal variation in temperature, outside of their internal comfort zone and cause substantial stress to them. Organisms that have evolved in more temperate areas and in polar regions already experience a wider range of temperatures and can handle this more easily.

Using a well-documented, century-old understanding that metabolic rates for cold-blooded animals increase faster the warmer the temperature, the researchers determined that the effects on metabolism will be greatest in the tropics, even though that region has the smallest actual warming. Metabolic impacts will be less in the Arctic, even though it has shown the most warming. In essence, organisms in the tropics show greater effects because they start at much higher temperatures than animals in the Arctic. (Science Codex)

Read the original: Global metabolic impacts of recent climate warming
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