Climate change, mountain building behind mammal diversity patterns

A new study suggests patterns of mammal diversity caused by biodiversity gradients arise from interactions between climate change and mountain building.

University of Michigan Assistant Professors John Finarelli and Catherine Badgley said biodiversity gradients are apparent when one travels from the tropics to the poles and sees the diversity of mammals declines with distance from the equator.

Move from lowland to mountains, they said, and you”ll see diversity increases as the landscape becomes more varied.

The researchers said ecologists have proposed various explanations for the biodiversity gradients, often invoking ecological, evolutionary and historical processes.

But research conducted by Finarelli and Badgley suggest the elevational patterns of diversity we see today have appeared, disappeared and reappeared over Earth”s history and that the patterns arise from interactions between climate change and mountain building.

That, said Finarelli, has implications for conservation efforts in the face of modern-day global warming.

“Based on our finding that more complex regions are more sensitive to climate change, threatened areas in mountainous regions should be a particular conservation concern, with respect to human-mediated climate change,” he said.

The finding also highlights the importance of studies that merge the disciplines of paleontology and biogeography, Finarelli said. “By marrying the two subjects, we can gain a better insight into the ecological and evolutionary processes shaping the world around us.”

The research appears in the early online edition of The Proceedings of the Royal Society B. (ANI)

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