Future temperature extremes threaten land vertebrates

Gopal Murali*, Takuya Iwamura, Shai Meiri, Uri Roll

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


The frequency, duration, and intensity of extreme thermal events are increasing and are projected to further increase by the end of the century1,2. Despite the considerable consequences of temperature extremes on biological systems3–8, we do not know which species and locations are most exposed worldwide. Here we provide a global assessment of land vertebrates’ exposures to future extreme thermal events. We use daily maximum temperature data from 1950 to 2099 to quantify future exposure to high frequency, duration, and intensity of extreme thermal events to land vertebrates. Under a high greenhouse gas emission scenario (Shared Socioeconomic Pathway 5–8.5 (SSP5–8.5); 4.4 °C warmer world), 41.0% of all land vertebrates (31.1% mammals, 25.8% birds, 55.5% amphibians and 51.0% reptiles) will be exposed to extreme thermal events beyond their historical levels in at least half their distribution by 2099. Under intermediate-high (SSP3–7.0; 3.6 °C warmer world) and intermediate (SSP2–4.5; 2.7 °C warmer world) emission scenarios, estimates for all vertebrates are 28.8% and 15.1%, respectively. Importantly, a low-emission future (SSP1–2.6, 1.8 °C warmer world) will greatly reduce the overall exposure of vertebrates (6.1% of species) and can fully prevent exposure in many species assemblages. Mid-latitude assemblages (desert, shrubland, and grassland biomes), rather than tropics9,10, will face the most severe exposure to future extreme thermal events. By 2099, under SSP5–8.5, on average 3,773 species of land vertebrates (11.2%) will face extreme thermal events for more than half a year period. Overall, future extreme thermal events will force many species and assemblages into constant severe thermal stress. Deep greenhouse gas emissions cuts are urgently needed to limit species’ exposure to thermal extremes.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)461-467
Number of pages7
Issue number7952
StatePublished - 16 Mar 2023


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