Human impact on the natural world will see a worldwide move towards smaller birds and mammals, a new study from the University of Southampton has concluded.
Animals that prey on insects and that thrive in a variety of habitats will be the ‘winners’ according to the study, while slower, larger and less adaptable species will likely fall victim to extinction.
“The substantial ‘downsizing’ of species which we forecast could incur further negative impacts for the long-term sustainability of ecology and evolution. This downsizing may be happening due to the effects of ecological change but, ironically, with the loss of species which perform unique functions within our global ecosystem, it could also end up as a driver of change too,” said Rob Cooke, lead author of the work.
Published in Nature Communications, the research focussed on nearly 16,000 living land animals, examining five characteristics that relate to the role of each species in nature: body mass, litter/clutch size, breadth of habitat, diet and length of time between generations.
Felix Eigenbrod, professor at the University of Southampton, says: “We have demonstrated that the projected loss of mammals and birds will not be ecologically random – rather a selective process where certain creatures will be filtered out, depending on their traits and vulnerability to ecological change.”