Where do you go when you've reached the top of a mountain and you can't go back down?
It's a question increasingly relevant to plants and animals, as their habitats slowly shift to higher elevations, driven by rising temperatures worldwide. The answer, unfortunately, is you can't go anywhere. Habitats shrink to the vanishing point, and species go extinct.
That scenario is likely to be played out repeatedly and at an accelerating rate as the world continues to warm, Stanford scientists say.
By 2100, climate change could cause up to 30 percent of land-bird species to go extinct worldwide, if the worst-case scenario comes to pass. Land birds constitute the vast majority of all bird species.
''Of the land-bird species predicted to go extinct, 79 percent of them are not currently considered threatened with extinction, but a number of will be if we cannot stop climate change,'' said Cagan Sekercioglu, a senior research scientist at Stanford and the lead author of a paper detailing the research, which is scheduled would be published online this week in Conservation Biology.
The study is one of the first analyses of extinction rates to incorporate the most recent climate change scenarios set forth earlier this year in the reports of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), which shared the Nobel Peace Price with Al Gore.