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Archive for the ‘Global warming’ Category.

Global warming and declining mammal diversity: new research in Nature

Pleistocene survivor, the deer mouse.  Photo by Glenn and Martha Vargas © California Academy of Sciences

Pleistocene survivor, the deer mouse. Photo by Glenn and Martha Vargas © California Academy of Sciences

Popular images of Ice Age California tend to feature enormous, extinct mammals like mammoths and saber-toothed cats.  By contrast, new research published in Nature examines populations of small mammals that survived through the end of the Ice Age and how they were affected by the climate change.

The research team of Jessica Blois (formerly at Stanford, now at University of Wisconsin, Madison), Elizabeth Hadly (formerly of UCMP, now at Stanford) and Jenny McGuire (UCMP) studied fossilized woodrat nests collected from Samwell Cave in Northern California.  Woodrats carry scat and regurgitated pellets produced by carnivores back to their nests.  These collections are filled with undigested small mammal bones, making fossilized woodrat nests treasure troves for paleontologists.

Comparing fossil data to modern small mammal populations in the same region revealed a big decrease in diversity during a period of global warming at the end of the Pleistocene Epoch.  There was a decrease in both species richness (number of different species) and evenness (relative dominance of species within a community).  A few species disappeared from the area entirely.  Some species remain in the area but as a much smaller proportion of the overall small mammal community.  And the main species to increase in relative abundance was the deer mouse — an animal that can tolerate a wide variety of habitats and climates.

Research of historic periods of global warming improves our understanding of how modern, man-made global warming will affect life on Earth.  Read more about this research:

UCMP's Tony Barnosky on Science Friday

barnosky_scifriMounting evidence suggests we may be on the cusp of a major extinction event. Last week, UCMP Faculty Curator Tony Barnosky talked about modern extinctions on Science Friday, a weekly science talk show on NPR. Tony was joined by Barry Sinervo, Professor at UC Santa Cruz, George Amato, of the Sackler Institute and the American Museum of Natural History, and Vance Vredenburg, Assistant Professor at San Francisco State University. In a lively conversation, Tony and the guests discussed many examples of animals and ecosystems currently affected by global warming. If you missed the program last week, you can listen to it here.

Tony is the author of Heatstroke: Nature in an Age of Global Warming. To learn more about his work, check out the Barnosky Lab website.

On May 17, Tony Barnosky gave the 2010 Integrative Biology Commencement Address, which he titled Geography of Hope, a line he borrowed from Wallace Stegner. Tony discussed the biological and global issues that will challenge the Class of 2010 — and how these graduates represent his hope for the future. Read Tony's commencement address, Geography of Hope, here.

Tony was involved with a BBC radio broadcast (May 2012) about the possibility of our being in the midst of a sixth mass extinction.

UCMP's Tony Barnosky in The Economist

Tony BarnoskyCheck out this week's issue of The Economist — it features the work of UCMP Faculty Curator Tony Barnosky. Tony looks at how climate change affects the ecology and distribution of mammals — in the distant past and in the future. The UCMP last blogged about Tony's work here.

Tony Barnosky talks about his book, Heatstroke, in Terrain magazine

Anthony BarnoskyClimate change is not a new phenomenon - the earth's climate has been changing for millions of years, and no one knows this better than paleontologists. In his recent book, Heatstroke: Nature in an age of Global Warming, UCMP Faculty Curator Tony Barnosky tells why today's climate change is different than the climatic fluctuations of the past, and how that will impact ecosystems in new ways. Tony was recently interviewed in Terrain, Northern California's Environmental Magazine. Read Tony's interview and learn how studying the fossil record helps us understand how current climate change is threatening wildlife and wild places in new ways, and what to do about it.

Tony will be speaking about his book, Heatstroke, at an upcoming public event, hosted by the UCMP. We'll post details about the event on the blog, so stay tuned!

Meanwhile, read some of Tony's op-ed pieces here, and check out his blog.