Fwd: Current Climate Change pushing wildlife northward
--- In email@example.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
"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.
[Non-text portions of this message have been removed]
--- End forwarded message ---