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60-Second Earth

Which Places Are Most Vulnerable to Climate Change?

Changes in the weather mean changes in ecosystems and a new report maps vulnerability. David Biello investigates

Spring comes sooner. The rain falls too hard or not enough. Warmer weather causes animals, plants, microbes and fungi to move in new directions. Such shifts are just some of the changes already happening as a result of increasing levels of greenhouse gases in the atmosphere, otherwise known as climate change.

But which places—Arctic tundra or Amazon rainforest—are most vulnerable to such climate change?

A research team has attempted a new estimate published in Nature Climate Change. (Scientific American is part of Nature Publishing Group.) Based on how intact a given ecosystem is as well as how much climate change it is expected to endure, they suggest that the high latitudes and high altitudes are likely to see the most change.

But that's not the whole story. All told, the most vulnerable regions included much of southern Asia, western and central Europe, eastern South America and southern Australia thanks to a combination of degraded landscapes and shifting climates.

This analysis can now inform conservation efforts: more stable intact areas may just require monitoring. But the most damaged and changing places would need everything from habitat restoration to potential human-assisted movement of species.

Whatever the case, the human influence on the world has become overwhelming and it's high time to take responsibility for nature in this Anthropocene.

—David Biello

[The above text is a transcript of this podcast.]

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