The potential impact of climate change on biological diversity is overshadowed by the overwhelming effect of human-induced modifications of terrestrial ecosystems that are responsible for major losses in biological diversity. Therefore, it is necessary to discriminate between the more immediate and more obvious effects of habitat modification by humans and the longer-term, more subtle effects of climate change. Despite varying opinion about the nature and extent of the impact of climate change on biological diversity, there is a general agreement that biological diversity will decline worldwide under most climate change scenarios (Fig. 1). This consensus has evolved through an overall synthesis of trends in organism response to measured variation in paleoclimate, from experimental results in controlled environments including carbon-dioxide enrichment, and from intensive field-studies of impacts on biological diversity in intact and modified habitats along a series of existing environmental and climatic gradients worldwide. Climate change is likely to have considerable impacts on most or all ecosystems. The distribution patterns of many species and communities are determined to a large part by climatic parameters; however, the responses to changes in these parameters are rarely simple.
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