How wildlife will react to climate change is an open question, but one of the first studies to compare the responses of tropical mammals to warmer habitats suggests the answer won’t be as simple as “move to a cooler place.”
In a study published online this week in Global Ecology and Biogeography, Rice University ecologist and lead author Lydia Beaudrot and co-authors from a dozen institutions examined how 36 mammal species on three continents reacted to changing temperatures at specific places in their local habitats between 2007-15. The scientists used more than 400,000 camera-trap photos and observations, including temperature readings, from a global network of field stations operated by the Tropical Ecology Assessment and Monitoring (TEAM) Network.
“Temperatures didn’t warm drastically overall during the time of our study, so we don’t see huge shifts,” said Beaudrot, a data scientist and assistant professor of biosciences at Rice. “But we do see changes over time in micro habitat use because of changes in the local temperature. We see that these mammals are responding to these very local temperature changes, but they’re also responding to other species nearby.”
TEAM helps monitor long-term trends in tropical biodiversity with near real-time data from 17 sites in Africa, Asia, Central America and South America. TEAM, which began as a partnership between Conservation International, the Smithsonian Institution and the Wildlife Conservation Society, has joined the wildlife monitoring partnership Wildlife Insights.