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Infertility poses ‘major threat’ to biodiversity during climate change, study warns


A new study by University of Liverpool ecologists warns that heat-induced male infertility will see some species succumb to the effects of climate change earlier than thought.

Currently, scientists are trying to predict where species will be lost due to climate change so they can plan effective conservation strategies. However, research on temperature tolerance has generally focused on the temperatures that are lethal to organisms, rather than the temperatures at which organisms can no longer breed.

Published in Nature Climate Change, the study of 43 fruit fly (Drosophila) species showed that in almost half of the species, males became sterile at lower than lethal temperatures. Importantly, the worldwide distribution of these species could be predicted much more accurately by including the temperature at which they become sterile, rather than just using their lethal temperature. To give an example, Drosophila lummei males are sterile four degrees below their lethal limit. To put that in context, four degrees is the temperature difference between summer in northern England and the south of France. MORE