Climate change and animal migrations

In the wake of recent scandals in climate science, many people seem to have forgotten that unambiguous evidence for climate change is everywhere: including in the changing locations of species. The locations of thousands of species have been tracked, including plants, animals, and insects. Since 1950, they have been moving northward at a rate of about 6.5 kilometres per decade. Meanwhile, the lines denoting regions with a given temperature range (isotherms) have been shifting north at 56 km per decade. Gardeners and birdwatchers can tell you that the climate is changing.

A colony of Galapagos sea lions have migrated 1,500 km. Meanwhile, other plants and animals are moving poleward and uphill. When species get pushed to the edges of continents or the top of mountains, they will be in grave danger. Likewise, when animals are forced to move northward faster than the plants they depend on can do so, it strains food webs.

Say what you will about the personal conduct of climate scientists, the evidence of a changing climate is everywhere. Hopefully, human beings will understand this and begin to curb it before too many species are pushed to the wall, and before our own becomes too threatened.

Author: Milan

In the spring of 2005, I graduated from the University of British Columbia with a degree in International Relations and a general focus in the area of environmental politics. In the fall of 2005, I began reading for an M.Phil in IR at Wadham College, Oxford. Outside school, I am very interested in photography, writing, and the outdoors. I am writing this blog to keep in touch with friends and family around the world, provide a more personal view of graduate student life in Oxford, and pass on some lessons I've learned here.

2 thoughts on “Climate change and animal migrations”

  1. Food chains ‘disrupted by earlier arrival of spring’

    By Mark Kinver
    Science and environment reporter

    Springtime in the UK is starting on average 11 days earlier than 30 years ago, causing natural food chains to become disrupted, a study suggests.

    Predators seem to be slower than organisms further down the food chains to respond to the seasonal shifts, according to a team of UK researchers.

    The findings are based on more than 25,500 records of 726 marine, terrestrial and freshwater species.

    The study has been published in the journal Global Change Biology.

    “If biological events at different levels within the food chains are changing at different rates, it is possible that we are seeing a de-synchronisation,” explained lead author Stephen Thackeray, an ecologist at the Centre for Ecology and Hydrology (CEH).

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