A study led by the University of York reveals that geologically warm periods are a biodiversity plus – but only on long time-scales.
To be published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, the study finds that biodiversity in warm periods rises over periods of millions of years – the downside being that species loss happens much faster (when temperatures first begin rising).
The research looked at marine invertebrate diversity over a period of 540 million years, replicating an earlier study with a larger data set.
The study helps to resolve what looked like a paradox in biodiversity data. The greatest biodiversity is to be found near the equator, explained the University of Glasgow’s Dr Alistair McGowan, but most previous analysis of the fossil record didn’t bear out that picture. The new results, he said, reverse the previous conclusions and “bring them into line with the ecological pattern”.
York biologist Dr Peter Mayhew said: “The improved data give us a more secure picture of the impact of warmer temperatures on marine biodiversity and they show that, as before, there is more extinction and origination in warm geological periods. But, overall, warm climates seem to boost biodiversity in the very long run, rather than reducing it.”
So if you can wait millions of years, the net outcome of global warming might be more biodiversity on the planet … ®