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Man-made borders threaten wildlife as climate changes

Man-made borders threaten wildlife as climate changes

Walls and fences designed to secure national borders could make it difficult for almost 700 mammal species to adapt to climate change, according to new research.

The study led by Durham University, UK, is the first to look at how man-made barriers could restrict the movement of animals as they shift between countries to find more hospitable places to live.

The researchers identified 32,000km of borders that are fortified with fences and walls, which have the potential to stop large numbers of animals from moving to more suitable environments.

Of these barriers, the USA-Mexico border wall, fences along the border between China and Russia, and fencing being constructed along the India-Myanmar border might be the most ecologically damaging, they said.

The USA-Mexico border wall alone could obstruct the movement of 122 mammal species displaced by climate change, the authors have calculated.

Mammals that could be obstructed by man-made borders across the world include leopards, tigers, the critically endangered Saiga antelope, cheetah, and jaguarundi (See Additional Information for more potentially affected species).

As well as considering political borders, the researchers also compared the likely impacts of ongoing climate change on species within countries.

They found that biodiversity loss is likely to be most severe in countries that are less responsible for the emissions that are driving climate change.

The findings are published in the journal Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, USA.

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