New findings suggest that biodiversity increases during warm periods, which may imply that global warming is actually good for the origination of species. The problem is that the process usually takes between thousands and millions of years, while current global warming is happening at a much faster pace.
The paper, published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, is based on analysis of fossils and sea-surface temperatures over the last 540 million years.
‘The improved data give us a more secure picture of the impact of warmer temperatures on marine biodiversity and they show that, as before, there is more extinction and origination in warm geological periods,’ says lead author Dr Peter Mayhew of the University of York. ‘But, overall, warm climates seem to boost biodiversity in the very long run, rather than reducing it.’
The benefits, then, may be in the long term. ‘Our results seem to show that temperature improves biodiversity through time as well as across space,’ says co-author Professor Tim Benton of the University of Leeds. ‘However, they do not suggest that current global warming is good for existing species. Increases in global diversity take millions of years, and in the meantime we expect extinctions to occur.’
Mayhew, P. J., Bell, M. A., Benton, T. G., & McGowan, A. J (2012). Biodiversity tracks temperature over time Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences
Louise I. Gerdes