Guest post by Maria Kurk
It is a fact of common knowledge nowadays that loss of biodiversity is one of the fatal consequences of global warming. If an average temperature increases, humanity risks losing as much as 30% of animal and plant species. It is caused by desertification, water loss, deforestation, as well as the inability of living organisms to adapt to new environmental conditions. Scientists noted that some more stable species migrate to the poles, where it is easier to maintain habitat. It is clear as a day that mankind cannot boast of any protection from this as well.
Speaking about animal welfare in terms of climate change processes, it is possible to compare its affects to human demography, where both rate of natural and migration population increase are majors. In this context, the population of numerous species have experienced gradual decline during recent decades, investing in endangered species list. It is associated with polar bears and seals that are losing their essential habitat due to the Arctic meltdown. One more interesting example is related to turtle species, which depend on the temperature greatly. Specifically, sex of future offspring is determined by the temperature of local environment: warm environment encourages birth of females, while cold, on the contrary, promotes reproduction of male turtles. As a result, turtle population might decay because of dominance of either males or females. Essentially, temperature shifts might influence on species even in the most vagarious ways.
However, let’s get back to demography indexes. Migration gain is nothing more or less important than animals’ natural decline. Tropical ecosystems suffer from animals’ and birds’ “escape” to the North, which cannot but ruin natural balance on the background of already occurring temperature increase. To illustrate the point, look at distribution of white herons, big-headed turtles and red mullet that could be observed near the shores of Great Britain, whereas previously they lived much further south. Some birds changed their wintering place from the west coast of the UK to the east and the other – remain on the islands, notwithstanding they flew to the south before. These are simple examples noticed these years; certainly, they could not be compared to the scales of species migration, when global warming gathers momentum.
In order to put into perspective, scientific investigation of British scientists is recommended. Experts headed by Chris Thomas, Professor of Biology in York University, claim that speed of animals’ migration is much higher than expected. Scientists estimated that certain species travel from warm equatorial areas with a speed equivalent to 20 centimeters per hour! Migration started in 1970s and nowadays it is three times faster than predicted. Migration to hills and mountains, to the cooler heights specifically, are twice as fast.
Reasonably, distribution areas of certain animal species might shorten significantly. Some sort of a summary analysis was provided by Carrie A. Schloss, University of Washington research analyst in environmental and forest sciences, who featured both migration aftermaths and natural decline of species population in North and South America. According to it, the number of perspective animal victims can gain 9,2%, which will be outrun by the speed of climate change. Therefore, some animals are likely to suffer from habitat shortage, including primates (by the way, many primates have been already added into endangered species list) and insect-eating mammals; it will narrow down on 75% in the following century. In contrast, predatory species, edentate and hoofed animals will genially adapt to shifts of climate zones and, as a consequence, disperse over larger territory. Certainly, research by Carrie Schloss cannot speak of the global animal welfare. However, it gives some food for meditation concerning gradual alterations waiting for animals in the years to come.