Climate Change Already Affecting Animal Populations

8 Mar

Climate change is already beginning to affect an array of species, according to a study examining data from northern Europe.

Global climate change is resulting in an increase in the populations of warm-dwelling creatures and a decrease in populations of cooler-dwelling creatures. This is based on research by scientists at the Senckenberg Biodiversity and Climate Research Centre in Germany. In a study that used data from 27 different scientific institutions, state authorities, non-governmental organizations and citizen scientists, and went back 30 years, researchers looked at 1,000 species in 22 local or regional communities.

What they found was that creatures more adapted to warmer climates were doing better throughout Germany, where the average temperature has risen about 0.3 degrees Celsius each decade.

“This may sound harmless, but it has a serious impact on nature. Long-term temperature changes have long-term effects on the population size of plant and animal species,” said Dr. Diana Bowler, one of the researchers. “Nearly half of the populations of various species showed a significant increase or decrease since 1980…This link is very obvious in mobile species such as birds and butterflies, but also in slow-growing species such as lichens.”

The results of this research shows that the effects of global climate change are real and already happening. What’s more, it’s a very broad effect, applying throughout the world, unlike more localized factors like changing land use.

Whenever populations undergo significant changes, it impacts other parts of the ecosystems in which those populations exist. As cooler-dwelling populations diminish, they will provide less food for other species or eat less of those other species themselves. This can result in the decline of other populations or the increase of pest populations once held in check by the declining species.

“Land use change still poses a serious threat to the populations and diversity of species. However, its effect tends to be of a more local nature, while climate change is geographically widespread,” said researcher Dr. Katrin Böhning-Gaese. “Temperature increases affect the populations of species across Germany, and this very effect can be observed today.”

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