To save nature, focus on populations, not species

Human-released greenhouse gasses are causing the world to warm, and with that warming comes increasing stress for many of the planet’s plants and animals. That stress is so great that many scientists believe we are currently in the midst of the ‘sixth extinction,’ when entire species are disappearing up to 10,000 times faster than before the industrial era. However, scientists have been uncertain which ecosystems, and which species, are most at risk. New research shows that the focus on species-level risk obscures a wide variability in temperature tolerance, even within the same species, and that this variability is greater for marine species than terrestrial ones. The findings have immediate implications for management and conservation practices and offer a window of hope in the effort to adapt to a rapidly warming world.Human-released greenhouse gasses are causing the world to warm, and with that warming comes increasing stress for many of the planet’s plants and animals. That stress is so great that many scientists believe we are currently in the midst of the ‘sixth extinction,’ when entire species are disappearing up to 10,000 times faster than before the industrial era. However, scientists have been uncertain which ecosystems, and which species, are most at risk. New research shows that the focus on species-level risk obscures a wide variability in temperature tolerance, even within the same species, and that this variability is greater for marine species than terrestrial ones. The findings have immediate implications for management and conservation practices and offer a window of hope in the effort to adapt to a rapidly warming world.

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