Animals not adapting quickly enough to climate change - study

Roe deer.
Roe deer. Photo credit: Getty.

A new study has found the climate is changing at a pace faster than what some animals are adapting, leaving their long-term survival in doubt. 

The research, published in Nature Communication, found that while some species are changing their seasonal life cycles in response to rising temperatures, the rate in which this is occurring is not at a pace which would "guarantee the long-term persistence of some populations".

The European authors, including from the Leibniz Institute for Zoo and Wildlife Research, reviewed more than 10,000 scientific abstracts and data from 71 published studies, with a particular focus on the response of birds to climate change.

Animals identified by the German study as at risk include the European roe deer, song sparrow, common murre and Eurasian magpie.

The researchers explain that due to the changing climate, the timing of species' breeding and migration, known as the animal's phenology, can be mismatched to seasonal temperatures.

While the study found some animals are altering their phenology, this doesn't appear to be happening quickly enough and can only occur if there is sufficient genetic variation in their behaviour and development. 

Animals could also change their shape, but this was not found to be happening in response to climate change.

Due to the slow rate in which phenological changes are occuring, the scientists calculate that many populations are lagging behind the rate of climate change, threatening their persistence.