(Photo: REUTERS / Ina Fassbender)
Hens are pictured at a chicken farm in the western town of Schleiden, Germany, January 6, 2011.
The shrinking of plants and animals due to climate change and drought could affect food production in the coming years, scientists say.
This is the assessment of assistant professor David Bickford of the National University of Singapore's biological sciences department.
Fossil records and several studies have shown that many species of plants and animal creatures like spiders, beetles, ants, bees and cicadas have shrunk over time. The reason, according, to Bickford and colleague Jennifer Sheridan, is climate change.
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These scientists cited an experiment that showed how the shoots and fruits of some variety of plants became 3 to 17 percent smaller for every degree Celsius of warming. In the case of marine invertebrates, the body size reduces by 0.5 to 4 percent for each degree of warming while fish size reduces by 6 to 22 percent.
In the journal Nature Climate Change, Bickford and Sheridan wrote that the survival of small individuals can increase in warmer temperatures, and drought conditions can lead to smaller offspring, leading to smaller average size.
"Impacts could range from food resources becoming more limited (less food produced on the same amount of land) to wholesale biodiversity loss and eventual catastrophic cascades of ecosystem services," Bickford wrote.
"We have not seen large-scale effects yet, but as temperatures change even more, these changes in body size might become much more pronounced - even having impacts for food security," he added.
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