CLIMATE CHANGE AND ITS IMPACT ON WILDLIFE

CLIMATE CHANGE AND ITS IMPACT ON WILDLIFE

It seems we all have a rough time to cope with the dramatic change of climate. We’ve started to notice this for some time – yes, scientists have been documented climate for more than a century, now. But until recently, this was not a priority. Well, great interest and effort was put into this in 1970s, but only lasted about a decade, then faded away. We were not ready.

Now, among the dire changes that our planet is going through, wildlife is also threatened. Like it wasn’t quite enough that hurricanes were destroying everything in their paths, that the ice is melting in the Arctic and the Antarctic and that significant bacteria living in the oceans and the deserts is changing or dying, we also have droughts and floods. All this provokes countless human casualties every year.

And yes, human society is responsible – with its carbon emissions – but not only for itself, but also for the wild and its creatures.

WILDLIFE IS RAPIDLY RESPONDING TO WARMING

Terry Root, an environmental science and policy professor at Stanford University, says that as humans argue about thermometer readings, animals are providing evidence that should be figured in to scientific and political decisions.

Wildlife is “just reacting to what’s going on out there. And if their behavior is very similar to what we expect with what’s going on with global warming — if they’re shifting and they’re moving, if they’re changing their breeding time by 5 days in 10 years — we can use that information to support what the thermometers are also showing.” said Terry Root (environmental science and policy professor at Stanford University).”

Root and her colleagues took numerous studies into consideration, all involving wild plant and fauna changes due to global warming. In their 2003 study, published in the Nature journal, they found out that of the nearly 1,500 species examined, about 1,200 showed temperature-related changes. This was consistent with the results the team expected, if those were being affected by global warming. The authors highlighted the possible ways that animal species might respond to rising temperatures, all of which have been also documented by other studies.

WILL GLOBAL WARMING IMPACT EVERYTHING?

In 2004, Elizabeth Hadly (biologist at Stanford University) published a study in the PLoS Biology journal, in which she examined fossil records from past warming periods. The conclusion was that climate change may reduce genetic diversity – by affecting connections between the population of species. And this means that without large, interconnected populations, genetic diversity is likely not to happen. And even if the species (as a whole) has a high genetic diversity, if the individuals are scattered and prevented from breeding, they may become just as vulnerable – to threats and disease – as a species with low genetic diversity would be.

Also, the body sizes and behaviors of different species can change due to rising temperatures. Analyzing fossils from 55 million years ago – another warming period – researchers believe that dwarfing may have resulted because of animals eating plants that flourished in the rich CO2 environment at that time – those had a low-protein tissue and were highly toxic.

While ecosystems are interconnected, like a web, species that have lived together or depended on each other, can shift to further developing differently, while also suffering genetic changes.

And last, but not least, how does all this apply to humans? As we also evolved alongside other species – being in the same web of ecosystems, will we also be changed in ways that we cannot yet possibly fathom?

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