Climate change could trigger domino effect, annihilate all life


New research shows that the future of life of the planet hangs in the balance in the face of climate change, with research outlining the risk of an “extinction domino effect”.

The report outlines the worst case scenario, a situation that scientists call ‘co-extinctions’, where an organism dies out because it depends on another doomed species, with the findings published today in the journal Scientific Reports.

“Even the most resilient species will inevitably fall victim to the synergies among extinction drivers as extreme stresses drive ecosystems to collapse,” says lead author Dr Giovanni Strona of the European Commission’s Joint Research Centre, based in Ispra in northern Italy.

Researchers from Italy and Australia simulated 2000 virtual earths, linking animal and plant species. Using sophisticated modelling, they subjected the virtual earths to catastrophic environmental changes that ultimately annihilated all life.

Examples of the kinds of catastrophes they simulated included runaway global warming, scenarios of a nuclear winter following the detonation of multiple atomic bombs, and a large asteroid impact.

“What we were trying to test is whether the variable tolerances to extreme global heating or cooling by different species are enough to explain overall extinction rates,” says co-author Professor Corey Bradshaw of Flinders University.

“But because all species are connected in the web of life, our paper demonstrates that even the most tolerant species ultimately succumb to extinction when the less-tolerant species on which they depend disappear.

The full report can be found here