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Fast-lived species more resilient to climate crisis

Fast-lived species could be more tolerant to the effects of the climate crisis which could have an impact on how ecosystems work, a study has found.  

UCL researchers have identified that fast-lived species have grown in population size, while slow-lived species are declining in numbers in recent decades.  

The study compared the success of animals that reproduce quickly or live in large numbers and don’t live for a long time and slower paced animals who take a long time to reach maturity and live long lives.  

Researchers analysed the effects of land cover and temperature changes on 1,072 animal populations recorded in the Living Planet database, between 1992 and 2016, encompassing 461 species.  

black and brown squirrel

The team discovered that fast-lived species had more positive population trends than slow-lived species. This was the case even in landscapes where most animals suffered declining populations, in areas with cropland and bare soil for example.  

Lead author Dr Gonzalo Albaladejo Robles from the UCL Centre for Biodiversity & Environment Research and the Institute of Zoology at ZSL, said: ‘Not all animal populations respond equally to climate and land use changes, as some groups are more vulnerable than others. As humans exert more and more impact on global ecosystems, we may see a turnover of animal community composition in many areas, as some slow-living animals disappear while the fast-living animals continue to thrive.’  

Invasive species, such as rats or monk parakeets, have fast life histories and can adapt to changing environments, while specialist animals who can play important, distinct roles in ecosystems have slower life histories. 

Co-author Dr Tim Newbold, also from UCL, said: ‘Our study provides further evidence of how human actions are rewiring natural ecosystems. The loss of slow-living animals, and gains in fast-living animals, will change the way that energy flows through ecosystems, which have far-reaching effects on the natural world.’ 

Photo by Daniel Olaleye

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