Scientist Calls Out Daily Caller's "Complete Distortion" Of Her Biodiversity Study
Blog ››› ››› DENISE ROBBINS
The Daily Caller's claim that "global warming is increasing biodiversity" is a "complete distortion" of a peer-reviewed study according to its lead author, who actually found that invasive species are changing local species compositions at an alarming rate, while the planet faces a period of mass species extinction.
Man-made global warming is having drastic impacts on biodiversity around the world, putting species at risk and driving mass extinction according to several studies. As climate changes, species are driven out of their primary habitats into different regions where they can't always adapt. As a result, the globe is currently experiencing the worst rate of species die-offs since the end of the dinosaur age, and studies show that climate change could further cause an extinction rate of up to one-third of the world's flora and fauna species.
The Daily Caller's Michael Bastasch published a May 15 article that contradicts this basic concept, titled "Global Warming Is Increasing Biodiversity Around The World." The article claims: "A new study published in the journal Science has astounded biologists: global warming is not harming biodiversity, but instead is increasing the range and diversity of species in various ecosystems."
The lead author of the study cited, Dr. Maria Dornelas from the Centre for Biological Diversity, responded in a statement to Media Matters that the Daily Caller article was "a complete distortion of what we say" and that there "is nothing in our paper to even suggest that climate change is beneficial for biodiversity":
No, our study shows nothing of the kind! It is a complete distortion of what we say, and I had no idea this story was running.
What we do show is that despite indisputable loss of biodiversity at the scale of the planet, in most places we detect a change in the species that live there, rather than loss of species everywhere. We suggest that part of this is caused by species migrating towards the poles in response to climate change, and part to invasive species replacing local species.
There is nothing in our paper to even suggest that climate change is beneficial for biodiversity.
An author of a corresponding perspective paper on the biodiversity study in Science, Dr. John Pandolfi, concurred in an email to Media Matters, saying that the Daily Caller's claim that global warming is "increasing" biodiversity is a "gross distortion" that "directly contradicts the main message of the paper."
The study actually finds that invasive species are moving to new regions -- in part due to climate change -- and subsequently are changing the species composition of local habitats at an alarming rate. As the Daily Caller buried in its article, the study found, for instance, that "coral reefs in many areas of the world are being replaced by a type of algae," replicating previous studies finding that coral reefs are being severely damaged by human activity.
The fact that the paper found that some areas are seeing a temporary increase in local biodiversity does not discredit the threat that rapid climate change poses to global biodiversity. Biological Anthropologist Greg Laden detailed how a case of increased local biodiversity has eventually led to mass extinctions in the past, in an email to Media Matters:
Consider the species diversity across the Pacific islands ... It generally went up during 18th through the early 20th century. Now there is a mass extinction event going on across the region, with literally hundreds of species extinct or expected to go extinct there. Some ornithologists expect Hawaii to lose almost all of its birds. The earlier increase in biodiversity, caused by humans, is the reason for the current extinctions.
Dr. Dornelas also gave an example of how this could play out:
[L]ets imagine three islands, one has blue birds, one has green birds and one has yellow birds. Blue bird island gets warmer, and our imaginary blue birds are particularly sensitive to climate variation, and so they go extinct. But their island island is now suitable for green birds, which colonize it. Green bird island stays the same, but green birds are also introduced to yellow bird island. Yellow birds cannot fight the competition and go extinct. At the end we have the same number of species in each of the islands (1), but the species that live there are different, and in total we have lost 2/3 of the species.
In an email to Media Matters, the National Wildlife Federation's Bruce Stein explained how an increased rate of foreign species invasion could "destroy" the "integrity" of ecosystems:
Saying that global warming is 'increasing biodiversity' ignores basic ecology by confusing ecologically desirable native species with the invasion of non-natives that are 'enriching' the diversity of our ecosystems even as they destroy their integrity. That's like saying that our economy would be in better shape if only we had a bigger labor force, even if most of those jobs were at or below the minimum wage.
The Daily Caller's misguided attempt to spin an alarming increase in invasive species as a positive shows how desperate it is to dismiss the threat of climate change.