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Amphibians and Reptiles Facing the Challenge of Climate Change
Urban, M.C., Richardson, J.L. and Freidenfelds, N.A. 2013. Plasticity and genetic adaptation mediate amphibian and reptile responses to climate change. Evolutionary Applications 7: 88-103.

The authors write that certain models "predict future declines in amphibians and reptiles owing to climate change," citing in this regard Thomas et al. (2004) and Malcolm et al. (2006)." But they say that "these correlative models rarely account for evolutionary change," and that "strong plasticity or high genetic variance might prove sufficient to generate phenotypic changes that match the demands of a new climate," such that "phenotypic plasticity and genetic adaptation could allow these species to persist in their current locations despite climate change."

What was done
In pursuing these thoughts, Urban et al. went on to evaluate evidence for plastic and evolutionary responses to climate variations in amphibians and reptiles via a literature review and subsequent meta-analysis. And what did they thereby learn from what had already been observed?

What was learned
The three researchers report that plasticity played "a clear and ubiquitous role in promoting phenotypic changes in response to climate variations," and they found "many studies that documented adaptive responses to climate along spatial gradients."

What it means
At the conclusion of their analyses of what had been learned by scientists who had already published papers on the subject, Urban et al. decided that "overall, plastic and genetic variation in amphibians and reptiles could buffer some of the formidable threats from climate change" and could thus "dampen some of the doom and gloom associated with research on biotic responses to climate change."

Malcolm, J.R., Liu, C., Neilson, R.P., Hansen, L. and Hannah, L. 2006. Global warming and extinctions of endemic species from biodiversity hotspots. Conservation Biology 20: 538-548.

Thomas, C.D., Cameron, A., Green, R.E., Bakkenes, M., Beaumont, L.J., Collingham, Y.C., Barend, F., Erasmus, N., Ferreira de Siqueira, M., Grainger, A., Hannah, L., Hughes, L., Huntley, B., van Jaarsveld, A.S., Midgley, G.F., Miles, L., Ortega-Huerta, M.A., Peterson, A.T., Phillips, O.L. and Williams, S.E. 2004. Extinction risk from climate change. Nature 427: 145-148.

Reviewed 4 June 2014