Climate change hastens population extinctions

John F. McLaughlin, Jessica J. Hellmann, Carol L. Boggs, Paul R. Ehrlich

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

372 Scopus citations


Climate change is expected to alter the distribution and abundance of many species. Predictions of climate-induced population extinctions are supported by geographic range shifts that correspond to climatic warming, but few extinctions have been linked mechanistically to climate change. Here we show that extinctions of two populations of a checkerspot butterfly were hastened by increasing variability in precipitation, a phenomenon predicted by global climate models. We model checkerspot populations to show that changes in precipitation amplified population fluctuations, leading to rapid extinctions. As populations of checkerspots and other species become further isolated by habitat loss, climate change is likely to cause more extinctions, threatening both species diversity and critical ecosystem services.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)6070-6074
Number of pages5
JournalProceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America
Issue number9
StatePublished - Apr 30 2002
Externally publishedYes


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