Some climate-change forecasts say that the distribution of animals and plants will simply shift to cooler latitudes as the planet warms. But those predictions are flawed, a new report says, because they don't take into account the way species live and interact with each other.
To make their point, two British researchers created climate change on a small scale. They set up four sets of cages with different combinations of three fruit fly species and a parasitic wasp. Each set contained eight cages, heated to a different temperature, linked with tubing.
The scientists found that the species makeup in the cages, and not just the temperature, helped determine which insects survived. For example, Drosophila subobscura normally lives best at 59 degrees Fahrenheit. Yet when living in a cage with another fly species, it thrived at 50 degrees.
Taking the interaction of species into account "will be required for adequate predictions of the potentially serious applied consequences of global warming on conservation and medical and agricultural pest control," they wrote in the journal Nature.