Wildlife under unprecedented threat from natural disasters

December 23rd, 2011 - 2:41 pm ICT by IANS  

London, Dec 23 (IANS) Scientists from the Zoological Society of London (ZSL) have come up with a method to identify wildlife populations likely to experience drastic changes when faced with extreme events such as natural disasters.

“As climate change leads to more frequent and severe natural disasters, we need to identify animals at risk of being washed away in a flood, or destroyed by wildfire,” says Eric Isai Ameca y Juarez, from ZSL, who led the study.

Spotting vulnerable populations can be tricky, as what might be a catastrophe for some species could be good news for others, according to a ZSL statement.

In France in 1999, hurricane Lothar led to an increase in the availability of winter food for roe deer. However, two years later in Belize, more than 40 percent of the black howler monkey population was wiped out when hurricane Iris destroyed their rainforest habitat.

Nathalie Pettorelli, senior author from ZSL says: “Extreme natural events represent a growing threat to biodiversity, and this might be particularly true for populations already under pressure due to habitat degradation or overexploitation.

“We propose a way to acknowledge this growing threat and carry out vulnerability assessments, in the hope that these will be taken into account when evaluating species extinction risk,” said Pettorelli.

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