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Fwd: Current Climate Change pushing wildlife northward

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  • patneuman2000
    ... NEW REPORT: Climate change will push wildlife northward and upward. Animals, entire forests could migrate By JOEL GAY Anchorage Daily News (Published:
    Message 1 of 1 , Jan 7, 2005
      --- In earthchanges@yahoogroups.com, mythisis@a... wrote:

      NEW REPORT: Climate change will push wildlife northward
      and upward. Animals, entire forests could migrate

      By JOEL GAY
      Anchorage Daily News

      (Published: January 3, 2005)

      A new national report paints a bleak picture for the
      wilds of North America if global warming continues,
      with waterfowl struggling to find wetlands, game
      animals losing their protective cover and plants
      possibly unable to pollinate.

      In Alaska and northern Canada, where temperatures have
      risen faster than in most places, the effects could be
      heightened, according to the report distilled from
      hundreds of scientific papers by The Wildlife Society,
      an association of nearly 9,000 wildlife managers,
      research scientists, biologists and educators, based in
      Washington, D.C.

      "Global warming presents a profound threat to wildlife
      as we know it in this country," said Douglas Inkley,
      who chaired the committee that wrote the report.

      Among the eight co-authors were representatives from
      the Institute of Arctic Biology at the University of
      Alaska Fairbanks, the Marine Biological Laboratory at
      Woods Hole, Mass., Stanford University's Institute for
      International Studies, Ducks Unlimited's Institute for
      Wetland and Waterfowl Research in Canada and the
      National Wildlife Federation.

      The earth's climate is constantly changing, the authors
      point out. But hundreds of studies in the last 20 years
      show that human activity has contributed to global
      warming during the last century.

      The effect of rising temperatures has fallen unequally
      across North America. Nights have warmed more than
      days, while land surfaces have heated up more than
      ocean surfaces. Winters have warmed more than summers,
      the report notes, and temperatures and precipitation in
      northern latitudes have grown more than in the tropics.

      There are too many variables to predict exactly what
      may happen in the next 100 years, the report says, but
      models by the leading climate research centers in the
      United Kingdom, Germany and the United States suggest
      warming will increase from two to 10 times more in the
      21st century than it did in the 20th.

      In the broadest terms, researchers believe North
      American animals and plants will move higher in
      elevation and farther north as temperatures rise. Some
      species may benefit from warmer air and water, but the
      report suggests that others may have a hard time
      keeping up with the changes.

      Animals may find their migratory paths blocked by
      cities, transportation corridors or farmland. Predators
      and their prey may not move at the same time, upsetting
      natural balances. Plants could suffer if the birds and
      insects that pollinate them head to cooler climes.

      Entire forests will migrate over time, the report says.
      Sugar maples could abandon the northeastern United
      States, perhaps replaced by the pine and hardwood
      forests of the southeast. Deer, bears and other animals
      that inhabit them would move on also.

      The changing forest ecosystem could make the forests
      more susceptible to disease. Rapid warming is thought
      to have played a role in the spruce bark beetle
      epidemic that ravaged Southcentral Alaska in the 1990s.

      The report notes that the growing season in parts of
      Alaska lengthened by 20 percent during the last
      century. In the future, that could mean more wildfires,
      which can disrupt caribou migration, moose survival and
      fur-bearer populations for years.

      On Alaska's coast, biologists and longtime residents
      already have seen the effects of thinner sea ice, which
      is crucial to the survival of walrus, polar bears and
      some seabird species. For animals already living at the
      northern edge of North America, there may be no colder
      places to go.

      Bird hunters could see dramatic declines in waterfowl,
      the report suggests. Wetlands in the Midwest and
      central Canada are expected to dry up, causing some
      duck species to decline by as much as 69 percent over
      the next 75 years. Nesting habitat could be lost as
      wetlands become more suitable for row crops.

      The question before policy-makers and wildlife
      managers, the report says, is how to soften the impacts
      of global climate change. The authors suggest that
      managers adopt a more cautious approach to their work.

      Old weather patterns may no longer hold, and extreme
      events such as 100-year floods could become more
      common, affecting fish runs and waterfowl habitat.
      Hunting seasons may have to be revised to account for
      later rutting periods or declining populations.

      The report also suggests that managers maintain healthy
      populations, which can better withstand a changing
      climate, and to consider moving affected wildlife
      populations to guard against extinctions.

      The report doesn't call for curbing emissions of
      greenhouse gases but notes that efforts to improve
      wildland habitat by planting trees or restoring
      grasslands and wetlands "has significant potential to
      offset impacts from global climate change."

      Others see the new report as a call to action. After
      laying out "the full dimensions of global warming's
      forecast for wildlife," National Wildlife Federation
      president Larry Schweiger said, "now it is incumbent
      upon us to change that forecast."

      For a copy of the report, see www.nwf.org/news.

      Daily News reporter Joel Gay can be reached at
      jgay@a... or at 257-4310.


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