Biodiversity losses associated with global warming of 1.5 to 4°C above pre-industrial levels in six countries

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We quantify the projected impacts of alternative levels of global warming upon the climatically determined geographic ranges of plants and vertebrates in six countries (China, Brazil, Egypt, Ethiopia, Ghana and India), accounting for uncertainties in regional climate projection. We quantify in a spatially explicit fashion the species richness remaining or lost, allowing the identification of climate refugia which we define as areas where > 75% ]of the species currently present remain in a world with a particular level of global warming above pre-industrial levels. In all countries and in both taxa, species richness declines with warming, as does the proportion of each country remaining a climate refugium for plants or vertebrates. In percentage terms, refugia loss relative to a 1961–1990 baseline period is greatest in India and Brazil, and least in Ghana and Ethiopia for the same level of warming, and is greater for plants than for vertebrates. Taking account of present land uses (i.e. area still considered natural), and using species richness of plants as a proxy to indicate biodiversity more generally, the proportion of land acting as climate refugia for biodiversity in five of the countries variously declines from 54–75% of a country in the 1961–1990 baseline period to 20–64% for 1.5 °C global warming, 11–53% for 2 °C, 3–33% for 3 °C and 2–24% for 4 °C warming. In Ethiopia, India, Brazil and China, climate refugia decline rapidly with warming while in Ghana and China some refugia persist even with 3–4 °C of warming. Only small percentages of Brazil, India and China are both climate refugia and lie within protected areas; hence, an expansion of the protected area networks in these countries would be required to deliver climate resilient biodiversity conservation. These percentages are larger in Ethiopia and Ghana and, in some areas of Ghana, the only remaining refugia are in protected areas, the remaining landscape converted to other uses.
Original languageEnglish
Article number47
JournalClimatic Change
Issue number3
Publication statusPublished - 29 Feb 2024


  • Climate change
  • Biodiversity
  • Risk
  • Climate refugia
  • Species Richness
  • Species richness

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