About this Research Topic
Mammals were perhaps the most successful group of terrestrial vertebrates to survive the impact winter that apparently caused the Cretaceous-Tertiary extinction event ~66 million years ago, when the non-avian dinosaurs disappeared. Now, another mass extinction event is underway, and is again associated with a major global climatic disturbance. However, this time the temperature change is in the opposite direction. Climate change is currently influencing virtually all ecosystems, and, together with other elements of anthropogenic forcing, is driving the reorganization of mammalian assemblages everywhere on the planet. These impacts can be evident at the level of the individual, perhaps involving lethal hyperthermia or dehydration, but more commonly sublethal fitness costs of chronic exposure to temperatures that exceed critical thresholds at critical times of year, or changes in food supply. Such costs could arise from disturbances of physiological processes or behavioral patterns, which become expressed at the population level as changes in vital rates and habitat occupancy. These could in turn drive shifts in species ranges or cause extinctions, with consequences at community and ecosystem levels. There are also indirect effects of climate change operating through responses of pathogens, prey and predators to altered environmental conditions and/or changes in behavior and physiology.
In this Research Topic, we invite novel contributions of recent work on the direct and indirect effects of climate change on mammals. All levels of biological organization are of interest, from the responses of individuals, populations or species (genetic, behavioral, physiological, epidemiological, biogeographical, etc.) to communities (changes in composition of species and functional types, biomass density, etc.) to ecosystems (changes in nutrient and energy flows, etc.). We aim to bring together international scientists working at different scales on a variety of mammalian taxa, and with different approaches, to generate a broad understanding of the consequences of contemporary climate change on mammals and their capacities to respond and adapt. We expect that most contributions will focus on terrestrial mammals, but we also welcome studies on cetaceans and pinnipeds.
Keywords: anthropogenic extinctions, anthropogenic forcing, climatic adaptation, global warming, mammalian fauna
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