Co-extinctions annihilate planetary life during extreme environmental change

Giovanni Strona, Corey J A Bradshaw

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

15 Citations (Scopus)
3 Downloads (Pure)

Abstract

Climate change and human activity are dooming species at an unprecedented rate via a plethora of direct and indirect, often synergic, mechanisms. Among these, primary extinctions driven by environmental change could be just the tip of an enormous extinction iceberg. As our understanding of the importance of ecological interactions in shaping ecosystem identity advances, it is becoming clearer how the disappearance of consumers following the depletion of their resources — a process known as ‘co-extinction’ — is more likely the major driver of biodiversity loss. Although the general relevance of co-extinctions is supported by a sound and robust theoretical background, the challenges in obtaining empirical information about ongoing (and past) co-extinction events complicate the assessment of their relative contributions to the rapid decline of species diversity even in well-known systems, let alone at the global scale. By subjecting a large set of virtual Earths to different trajectories of extreme environmental change (global heating and cooling), and by tracking species loss up to the complete annihilation of all life either accounting or not for co-extinction processes, we show how ecological dependencies amplify the direct effects of environmental change on the collapse of planetary diversity by up to ten times.

Original languageEnglish
Article number16724
Number of pages12
JournalScientific Reports
Volume8
Issue number1
DOIs
Publication statusPublished - 13 Nov 2018

Bibliographical note

Open Access This article is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License, which permits use, sharing, adaptation, distribution and reproduction in any medium or format, as long as you give appropriate credit to the original author(s) and the source, provide a link to the Creative Commons license, and indicate if changes were made.

Keywords

  • biodiversity
  • climate-change ecology

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