"It's very hard to predict by species exactly how they'd respond," Pierce said. "Each species is going to be unique."
Despite such high levels of uncertainty, all three scientists agree that this vein of research is important. Birds are often used as an indicator of overall ecosystem health in Wyoming, Colorado and Arizona, Hatten said. Significant population changes could have significant, yet unknown, consequences.
In other cases, USGS research can be used to warn environmental stewards before a problem becomes irreversible.
"They see that those species are going to be at risk," Johnson said. "They can try to pre-manage for that.
"In some cases they won't be able to do anything," he added. "In other cases they can do some sort of restoration to save that species."
The severity of the impact on each species, whether comely or homely, will ultimately be up to us, Johnson said. If people can reduce emissions enough to change projected temperature increases, the USGS models could be inconsequential, he added.
Reprinted from Climatewire with permission from Environment & Energy Publishing, LLC. www.eenews.net, 202-628-6500