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Friday, May 9, 2008

Adaptation in Ecosystems

Recently published research offers conflicting messages on the fate of species in a changing climate:

Writing in PNAS, Deutsch et al. report that the thermal tolerance of insect species in the tropics is narrower than in temperate areas. As a consequence, they conclude "that warming in the tropics, although relatively small in magnitude, is likely to have the most deleterious consequences because tropical insects are relatively sensitive to temperature change and are currently living very close to their optimal temperature."

Meanwhile, Charmantier et al. published more optimistic news in Science. A long-term study of great tit (Parus major) populations in the UK has revealed that phenotypic plasticity has enabled the species to closely track the rapidly changing climate.

Collectively, this suggests that there are no one-size-fits-all generalisations when it comes to predicting ecosystem responses to a changing climate.

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