Associate Professor James Watson of UQ's School of Earth and Environmental Sciences and the Wildlife Conservation Society said alarmingly, the team of worldwide researchers found evidence of observed responses to recent climate changes in nearly 700 birds and mammal species.
A team of researchers writing in the journal Nature Climate Change say that nearly half of the mammals and a quarter of the birds of the IUCN Red List of Threatened Species are affected by climate change - previous literature stated only seven percent of mammals and four percent of birds were impacted, marking a major increase.
The report adds to an ever-growing body of evidence that swift action is needed to tackle a phenomenon that's driving a biodiversity crisis, sea-level rise, drought and extreme heat. "We have the means to avoid the very worst impacts of climate change, and create a cleaner, healthier society - all it takes is the will". For each of those more than 2,000 species, the authors categorized the effect as negative, positive, unchanged or mixed.
Most studies access the impact of climate change on wildlife on a global scale. Since the exact statistical data would help humans protect animals from being threatened by the negative impact of climatic alterations. But, they found, even those with a wide range of diet are suffering from tremendous declines.
Associate Professor Watson said the study reviewed the observed impacts of climate change on birds and mammals using a total of 130 studies, making it the most comprehensive assessment to date on how climate change has affected our most well-studied species.
Marylyn Haines Evans, the chairwoman of the public affairs committee of the National Federation of Women's Institutes, says concerns over flooding, the cost of food, loss of wildlife and impacts on the countryside showed how climate change was becoming all too real for British people.
While the impact varies among species, and other factors including where they are, how long their typical lifespans are and how specialized their diets are, among other factors that affect their ability to adapt, scientists found that almost 700 species are already affected. "The results ring loud alarm bells, and show that climate change will exacerbate existing threats for many species, greatly increasing the scale of the conservation challenge". But slow breeders, including primates, elephants, and marsupials, were less able to adapt to the changing conditions.
"We need to greatly improve assessments of the impacts of climate change on all species right now", he said.
The researchers are also calling for conservation efforts and governmental policies on climate change to focus on the present impacts on animals. In some cases, species can adapt to the changes, but others are facing dire consequences, Watson said. That is a large jump from past estimates, which assumed that only seven percent of mammals and four percent of birds on the International Union for Conservation of Nature's (IUCN) "Red List" are being harmed by global warming.
"Nature is extremely resilient if you give it a chance", said Watson.