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Wildlife Moves to Stay Cool in a Warmer World

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  • mtneuman@juno.com
    Published on Monday,, August 8, 2005 by Reuters Wildlife Moves to Stay Cool in a Warmer World By Alister Doyle OSLO - Salmon swim north into Arctic seas,
    Message 1 of 1 , Aug 9, 2005
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      Published on Monday,, August 8, 2005 by Reuters

      Wildlife Moves to Stay Cool in a Warmer World
      By Alister Doyle

      OSLO - Salmon swim north into Arctic seas, locusts plague northern Italy
      and two heat-loving bee-eater birds nest in a hedge in Britain.


      Signs of global warming fed by greenhouse gases produced by human
      activity, or just summertime oddities?

      In the United States, some warblers are flying north to Canada. In Costa
      Rica, toucans are moving higher up into the mountains, apparently because
      of rising temperatures.

      In July, a Norwegian man fishing in a fjord had a shock when he landed a
      John Dory, a fish more usually found in temperate waters off southern
      Europe or Africa.

      "There's a long list of migratory species ending up further north. It's
      certainly a sign of warmer temperatures," said Steve Sawyer, climate
      policy director at the Greenpeace environmental group.

      He said salmon had been swimming through the Bering Strait between Alaska
      and Russia into the Chukchi Sea, apparently because the frigid water had
      warmed up.

      Such shifts could have vast long-term implications for farmers and
      fishing fleets.

      However, some experts are sceptical that unusual sightings of everything
      from bears to butterflies support theories that temperatures are rising
      because of a build-up of heat-trapping gases emitted by cars, factories
      and power plants.

      "If you want to measure temperatures, you use a thermometer, not a bird,"
      said Fred Singer, who heads the U.S. Science and Environmental Policy
      Project. "Birds have all sorts of reasons for moving north, south,
      sideways or whatever."

      Singer says people and creatures have adapted to unexplained changes in
      temperature, linked to natural variation, throughout history. Some
      species simply move in unexpected directions or unwittingly stow away on
      trucks, planes or ships.

      ROBINS IN ARCTIC

      However, U.N. data show that the warmest year since records began in the
      1860s was 1998, followed by 2002, 2003 and 2004. Most scientists link the
      rise in temperatures to human emissions of carbon dioxide from burning
      fossil fuels, rather than natural change.

      The panel that advises the United Nations says that rising temperatures
      may drive thousands of species to extinction and cause more storms,
      floods and deserts while raising sea levels, perhaps by one metre (three
      feet) by 2100.

      Inuit peoples have noted southerly species of wildlife reaching the
      Arctic in summertime in recent years, including robins, hornets and barn
      owls.

      Anecdotal evidence from further south is piling up.

      Two yellow, green and brown bee-eater birds, usually found in southern
      Europe, have nested in a hedge in southern England -- the fourth time a
      bee-eater nest has been found in Britain.

      "It looks as if it's linked to climate change," John Lanchbery, head of
      climate policy at Britain's Royal Society for the Protection of Birds,
      said of a general shift northwards of birds in Europe.

      Growing seasons have extended and seas have become warmer, he said.

      However, some examples are misleading.

      In the Piedmont region of northern Italy this summer, residents were
      surprised by swarms of locusts, suspecting they had flown over from
      Africa.

      Insect experts said they were an Italian species and did not migrate over
      long distances. Still, an exceptionally hot summer in 2003 has meant more
      parched ground, ideal conditions for the pests to lay their eggs.

      "Global warming could also be a reason," said Vincenzo Girolami, an
      entomologist at Padua University. If there were more hotter, drier
      summers, there were likely to be more swarms of locusts in Italy, he
      said.

      HEADACHE FOR RANGERS

      In the United States, birds such as the Cape May warbler and Blackburnian
      warbler are moving north into Canada, causing a headache for forest
      rangers.

      If the birds leave, spruce forests in the United States could be
      vulnerable to attacks by spruce budworm caterpillars, normally eaten by
      the birds. If the caterpillars are left to thrive they will eat, and dry
      out, the trees.

      "The trees could be more stressed which could lead to more fires," said
      Terry Root, a professor at Stanford University in the United States. "We
      could really have a difficult situation."

      In Costa Rica's Monteverde cloud forest, toucans, with their
      brightly-coloured, banana-shaped bills, are threatening another species,
      the spectacular green quetzal, by moving to higher altitudes where the
      quetzals nest, she said.

      Additional reporting by Timothy Gardner in New York, Robin Pomeroy in
      Rome and Ed Stoddard in Johannesburg
      � 2005 Reuters

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