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Climate Change and Elevated Extinction Rates of Reptiles from Mediterranean Islands

Johannes Foufopoulos, A. Marm Kilpatrick and Anthony R. Ives
The American Naturalist
Vol. 177, No. 1 (January 2011), pp. 119-129
DOI: 10.1086/657624
Stable URL: http://www.jstor.org/stable/10.1086/657624
Page Count: 11
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Climate Change and Elevated Extinction Rates of Reptiles from Mediterranean Islands
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Abstract

Abstract: Recent climate change has caused the distributions of many species to shift poleward, yet few empirical studies have addressed which species will be vulnerable to longer‐term climate changes. To investigate past consequences of climate change, we calculated the population extinction rates of 35 reptile species from 87 Greek land‐bridge islands in the Mediterranean that occurred over the past 16,000 years. Population extinction rates were higher for those species that today have more northern distributions. We further found that northern species requiring cool, mesic habitats had less available suitable habitat among islands, implicating loss of suitable habitat in their elevated extinction rates. These extinctions occurred in the context of increasing habitat fragmentation, with islands shrinking and separating as sea levels rose. Thus, the circumstances faced by reptiles on the islands are similar to challenges for numerous species today that must cope with a changing climate while living in an increasingly human‐fragmented landscape. Our island‐biogeographical approach to investigating historical population extinctions gives insight into the long‐term patterns of species responses to climate change.

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