Maps of Earth Showing Where Severe Weather is Most Likely to Kill

This map shows where cyclones are most likely to hit, given current shifts in climate. And now a group of researchers are saying that it also shows where land mammals are most likely to go extinct as weather conditions worsen. Led by Zoological Society of London researcher Eric Ameca y Juárez, the group analyzed 5,760 mammal species that live on land to evaluate which of them was most likely to be wiped out as Earth's weather changes in the coming centuries.

Maps of Earth Showing Where Severe Weather is Most Likely to Kill

Worse even than exposure to cyclones will be exposure to drought, as you can see in the above map. Three times as many mammals in danger from droughts as from cyclones, though few animals are in danger of exposure to both. Most of the drought-threatened animals are in Africa south of the Sahara; while most cyclone threats are to animals in Madagascar.

To draw their conclusions, researchers analyzed which animals live primarily in these cyclone and drought zones to see which endangered and non-endangered species would likely suffer reductions in numbers and even extinction if weather trends continue.

Write the researchers in Conservation Letters this week:

We defined "significant" exposure as an overlap of at least 25% between a species' extant geographic range and areas impacted by cyclones or droughts. Similarly we defined "high" exposure when such a species‟ range overlap with areas impacted by either cyclones or droughts was equal or greater than 75% . . . It follows that the greater such area of overlap, all else being equal, the greater the probability that a species will be affected. Exposure by itself does not necessarily equal risk. The overall risk of a species experiencing negative impacts from climate change, including extreme events, is expected to depend not only on exposure but also the species' intrinsic characteristics and adaptability to disturbance.

The species most at risk are those that can't live outside their geographic range, and that can't adapt rapidly to drought conditions or stormy weather.

Ameca y Juárez said in a release:

Approximately a third of the species assessed have at least a quarter of their range exposed to cyclones, droughts or a combination of both. If these species are found to be highly susceptible to these conditions, it will lead to a substantial increase in the number of mammals classified as threatened by the IUCN under the category 'climate change and severe weather'.

Read the full scientific article at Conservation Letters.