Climate Change Already Impacting Living Systems

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NATURE
VOL 421
2 JANUARY 2003

A globally coherent fingerprint of climate change
impacts across natural systems
Camille Parmesan* & Gary YoheÝ

* Integrative Biology, Patterson Laboratories
141, University of Texas, Austin, Texas 78712, USA
Ý John E. Andrus Professor of Economics, Wesleyan
University, 238 Public Affairs Center,
Middletown, Connecticut 06459, USA
………………………………………………………………………………………
Abstract:
Causal attribution of recent biological trends to
climate change is complicated because
non-climatic influences dominate local,
short-term biological changes. Any underlying
signal from climate change is likely to be
revealed by analyses that seek systematic trends
across diverse species and geographic regions;
however, debates within the Intergovernmental
Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) reveal several
definitions of a ‘systematic trend’.  Here, we
explore these differences, apply diverse analyses
to more than 1,700 species, and show that recent
biological trends match climate change
predictions. Global meta-analyses documented
significant range shifts averaging 6.1 km per
decade towards the poles (or metres per decade
upward), and significant mean advancement of
spring events by 2.3 days per decade. We define a
diagnostic fingerprint of temporal and spatial
‘sign-switching’ responses uniquely predicted by
twentieth century climate trends. Among
appropriate long-term/large-scale/multi-species
data sets, this diagnostic fingerprint was found
for 279 species. This suite of analyses generates
‘very high confidence’ (as laid down by the IPCC)
that climate change is already affecting living
systems.

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