Those who follow the advice of Scott McKenzie by wearing flowers in their hair when visiting the Bay Area may find it increasingly difficult to find native Californian flora over the coming years.
Scott Loarie and colleagues discovered that two-thirds of the state's endemic plants could suffer more than an 80 percent reduction in geographic range by the end of the century, thanks to the effects of global climate change. In their study, Climate Change and the Future of California's Endemic Flora, published in PLoS ONE on June 25th, the researchers warn that because native species not found outside the state make up nearly half of all California's native plants, a changing climate will have a major impact on the state's unparalleled plant diversity. The article prompted an Associated Press story, which has been widely syndicated, along with the following news and blog coverage:
- Los Angeles Times – Climate change threatens two-thirds of California's unique plants, study says (see also a beautiful slideshow of images of the flora that could be in danger)
- San Francisco Chronicle – Grim look at state's plant life
- Reuters – Climate change to create "plant refugees"
- Science News – Move It or Lose It
- The Great Beyond – Californian plants can’t take the heat
A second article on climate change was published in PLoS ONE this week (Climate Extremes Promote Fatal Co-Infections during Canine Distemper Epidemics in African Lions by first author Linda Munson and senior author Craig Packer). The researchers studied the effects of extreme weather conditions, worsened by global climate change, on the spread of infectious diseases. They found that the increased frequency of droughts and floods expected with global warming, can create conditions in which diseases that are tolerated one at a time may converge and cause mass die-offs of livestock or wildlife as the normal host-pathogen relationships are altered, causing a “perfect storm” of multiple infectious outbreaks that could trigger epidemics with catastrophic mortality. Some of the news coverage of the article includes:
- Reuters – Floods and droughts make mild diseases deadly
- National Geographic – Major Lion Die-Offs Linked to Climate Change
- Discover Magazine – Lion Die-Off Shows How Climate Change Can Cause Epidemics
Finally, in an article entitled, Increased Avian Diversity Is Associated with Lower Incidence of Human West Nile Infection: Observation of the Dilution Effect, John Swaddle and colleagues found an interesting example of how biodiversity can reduce the disease incidence in humans, namely that areas that have a more diverse bird population show much lower incidences of West Nile virus infection in the human population. West Nile develops rapidly in bird populations, and then can be passed to humans or other animals through a vector mechanism, often a mosquito. The article was featured on the Discovery Channel (More Bird Species Means Fewer West Nile Cases) and the blog 10,000 Birds (Bird Biodiversity Good for Humans Too).
You can, of course, read, rate and discuss the other 51 papers published in PLoS ONE on June 25th by visiting the journal publication site.