ORLANDO — Climate change threatens to kill off up to a third of the planet's species by the end of the century if urgent action isn't taken to restore fragile ecosystems, protect endangered animals and manage growth, scientists warned Wednesday as a wildlife summit opened.
"Much of the predictions are gloom and doom. The ray of hope, however, is that we have not lost our opportunity. We still have time if we act now," said Jean Brennan, a senior scientist with Defenders of Wildlife and co-recipient of the 2007 Nobel Peace Prize for her work on the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change.
The three-day summit, sponsored by the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission, assembled several world-renowned climate change researchers and dozens of wildlife experts.
Experts noted that many plants and animals have temperature-specific habitats. A change of only a few degrees can kill them or send them looking for a better home.
"Species are moving to track what is the most ideal climate for them," Brennan said, adding that many are "desperately trying" to find their way through a maze of dams, development and other man-made obstacles along their natural corridors.
Brennan and others said creating wildlife pathways so animals can move freely north as temperatures warm could mean the difference between survival and extinction.