Well-evolved species ‘at higher climate change risk’

Animals ideally suited to their conditions are more vulnerable to climate change. That’s according to a new study from the University of Oviedo, University of Málaga, Doñana Biological Station, the University […]

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By Jonny Bairstow

Animals ideally suited to their conditions are more vulnerable to climate change.

That’s according to a new study from the University of Oviedo, University of Málaga, Doñana Biological Station, the University of Exeter and the University of Western Australia, which studied data on 12 bird species from across Europe.

The study examined whether birds might be able to evolve to adapt to environmental changes in the geographical area where they nest, feed, migrate and hibernate over the course of their lifetimes.

It found populations that experienced the most favourable conditions and also those facing the toughest conditions had the lowest evolutionary potential.

The populations that displayed the greatest potential to evolve and adapt to changing conditions were found living between the two extremes.

Dr Regan Early, from the Centre for Ecology and Conservation at the University of Exeter, said: “We were surprised to find reduced evolutionary potential among birds living in the centre of a species’ range.

“The reasons for this are not clear but high levels of competition in prime areas might lead birds with certain traits to survive – meaning little genetic variety in the population and consequently little scope for evolution.”