Pace of climate change varies from mountain to marsh
Reports of maples on the march northward and butterflies flitting far afield are already flooding in, and climate scientists predict that with escalating temperature changes more species will need to either get out of Dodge, or hope for emissions reductions that will help the planet dodge the climate bullet.
Much of Earth’s life forms are fine-tuned for specific ecosystems and their associated climates. Plunk a tree frog down in a harsh habitat it is not well adapted for, and it will fail to thrive—or even survive. Now, with regional climates shifting as a result of global warming, it is unclear just how far—and how fast—organisms will need to travel to keep up with moving climates. A new study, published online in Nature, aims to paint a clearer picture by uncovering the variable velocity of climate shifts across the globe…
On average, given annual average temperature change models, local climates will move about 0.42 kilometers (or a quarter of a mile) each year, the study found. And 28.8 percent of the world’s biomes (or ecosystems, areas with similar climatic conditions) are facing rates of change more than 1 kilometer per year. “What we’re bringing attention to is the speed with which these things happen,” Loarie says about the study, which analyzed these climate change velocities across the globe at the resolution of a single kilometer.
Although these shifts might sound like small beans for mobile animals like birds, which can pick their environment with relative precision, for the very small, the very large and the very rooted, such a pace might be impossible. “Plants might be particularly vulnerable” in the case of rapid local climate changes, says Dov Sax, an assistant professor of ecology and evolutionary biology at Brown University in Providence, R.I. And even species that can travel more easily, like butterflies, can be dependent on specific plants or other biome system members that are slower to follow temperature changes. If a species can move to more comfortable climes, “the right ecosystem needs to be there” for them to thrive, Sax explains.
Calculating climactic changes is a tricky business, and temperature is by no means the whole story. Loarie and his team chose temperature as a key marker, he says, because organisms are “bathed in temperature.” His team also ran the models with predicted precipitation changes and arrived at similar conclusions, even though moisture levels can prompt more nuanced responses across species. Sax, who wasn’t involved in the study, notes that predicting how species will respond to these changes can be even more difficult. “We’re in a very early stage of figuring these things out,” he says.
RTFA. It will help your own understanding. Presuming you are one of those rational human beings who orders their life and politics through expanding knowledge – rather than talking points, trite and ideological.
Even in the narrow context of La Cieneguilla we have witnessed the arrival of lizard species from the fringes of Sonoran desert advancing north. At first we feared destruction of the native Blue-tailed skinks; but, they appear to have fought back successfully and maintained their portion of the local biosphere.
Migrating birds that used to pass through on their way to Mexico in the Fall – now form a skirmish line wavering forth and back through our latitude and altitude. Red-wing blackbirds and some lovely bluebirds.
All short-term phenomena; but, differing qualitatively from the recorded history of the region.