Computer modelling has shown that more than 1 in 10 species could be lost by the end of the century.
The simulation conducted on one of Europe’s most powerful supercomputers also found that one extinction caused a cascade of extinctions that have been coined “co-extinctions”.
The tool found that under the worst climate change prediction, 34% more species would become extinct than would be predicted when not considering co-extinctions.
The study by European Commission scientist Giovanni Strona and Flinders University professor Corey Bradshaw was published on Saturday in the journal Science Advances.
Predictions for climate change caused by carbon emissions were put into the computer model, along with forecast land use changes.
Professor Bradshaw said it was clear from the research that carbon emission reduction policies needed to focus on the planet as a whole. “Biodiversity conservation and climate change mitigation really go hand-in-hand,” he said. “It also works the other way round: if we save more species, we’re going to have more capability in reducing climate change over the next century or so.”
To produce the study, the scientists created synthetic Earths complete with virtual species and more than 15,000 food webs to predict the interconnected fate of species.
The modelling found the areas of the world with the most biodiversity now — such as South America, Africa and Australia — would suffer the most from the effects of climate change and land use changes.
Carnivores and omnivores would be particularly affected by the loss of other species where they live.
Adapted from an article on the ABC