[ Back to EurekAlert! ] Public release date: 29-May-2009
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Contact: Kathleen Wets
kathleen@f1000.com
44-207-323-0323
Faculty of 1000: Biology and Medicine

Counting sheep in climate change predictions

Climate change can have devastating effects on endangered species, but new mathematical models may be able to aid conservation of a population of bighorn sheep.

The effects of a changing climate on a population of bighorn sheep can be mathematically predicted, as described in a recent paper recommended by Faculty of 1000 Biology members Barry Brook and Lochran Traill.

Researchers from Germany, the US, and Mexico studied a population of bighorn sheep introduced to Tiburon island, Mexico, in 1975. Here, the sheep are not at risk from disease or predators, and climate change is the only variable threat to the animals. In this new study, the researchers predicted the effect of climate change on the sheep population using a mathematical simulation. The sheep appear to be vulnerable to increased drought in the area - a side-effect of global climate change. More severe drought will eventually lead to a decrease in the sheep population.

Being able to predict the effect of climate change before it happens is of great importance to the conservation of endangered species. Brook and Traill point out that their calculations can be adapted to other species, in other regions: "The work is therefore an important contribution towards [...] the continued conservation of small populations under global change."

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Notes to Editors

1. Barry Brook, Faculty Member for F1000 Biology, is the Foundation Sir Hubert Wilkins Chair (Professor) of Climate Change and Director of the Research Institute for Climate Change and Sustainability at the University of Adelaide http://www.f1000biology.com/about/biography/1797398430905950.

2. Lochran Traill is an Associate Faculty Member for F1000 Biology with Barry Brook, and is a Post-doctoral Associate at The Environment Institute at the University of Adelaide.

3. The full text of this article is available at http://www.f1000biology.com/article/id/1160441.

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