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Brook Trout, 1 In 6 Species Could Be Wiped Out By Climate Change

PHOTO:  New analysis published in the magazine Science predicts that one in six species, including native brook trout, could become extinct as a result of climate change. Photo credit: Wild Virginia.
PHOTO: New analysis published in the magazine Science predicts that one in six species, including native brook trout, could become extinct as a result of climate change. Photo credit: Wild Virginia.
May 11, 2015

CHARLESTON, W. Va. - A new study predicts as the planet's temperature rises, plant and animal species, maybe including cold-water brook trout, will become extinct at an increasing rate.

The report combined data from every climate extinction model ever published to arrive at its conclusions. The study's author, Mark Urban, an ecologist with the University of Connecticut, says if we continue business as usual, extinctions could reach alarming rates.

"If we continue on our current trajectory, we could reach a point where one in six species around the world are endangered with extinction based on climate change, just climate change, not other factors," says Urban.

The report found if global warming is capped at 2 degrees Celsius above pre-industrial temperatures, the projected extinction rate drops to 5.2 percent.

According to the National Wildlife Federation and Trout Unlimited, the native brook trout that live in cold Appalachian streams are one of the species threatened by climate change. They estimate the fish has already fallen by a third, and could be completely gone by the middle of the century. Urban says one thing that's crucial now is to fund agencies such as NASA that monitor the climate.

"The more information we have from various sources, including NASA, it'll be really important in understanding climates, making those better predictions, and using those climate predictions to do the things that I'm interested in, which is trying to understand how those will affect biodiversity and species around the world," Urban says.

As bad as Urban's predictions may seem, the New York Times interviewed other climate experts who said actual extinction rates could end up being two to three times higher. Urban admits his report is not the final word on the matter, and adds there's still time to act.

"As a country and as a world, we have a lot of smart people that can figure this out," he says. "We just have to decide that this is what we're going to do in order to prevent some of these damaging effects from happening and then go about the work of getting it done."

Dan Heyman, Public News Service - WV