*NEWS*CLIMATE RESPONSE RISKS TO NATURE

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*NEWS*CLIMATE RESPONSE RISKS TO NATURE

 user 2005-11-04 at 10:11:00 am Views: 62
  • #14499

    Climate response risks to nature
    Many species are shifting at an inappropriate rate, and this must in the end be detrimental
    Some animals are responding to climate change in ways which could threaten their survival, a new study finds.
    Scientists
    showed that migration and breeding of the great tit, puffin, red
    admiral and other creatures are moving out of step with food supplies.
    The
    researchers say the rapid pace of climate change, together with
    pressures on habitat, make it difficult for species to adapt.
    The study is published in the Royal Society’s journal Proceedings B.
    A
    large number of studies in recent years have shown that the behaviour
    of plants and animals is changing in response to climatic alteration.
    Birds
    are migrating at different times, flowers and larvae are emerging
    earlier, and fish and insects are moving into new ranges.
    The key
    question is how much this matters – whether these changes impair the
    prospects for these species, or whether they are appropriate
    adaptations which will ensure survival.
    Marcel Visser, from the
    Netherlands Institute of Ecology in Heteren, and Christiaan Both, from
    Groningen University, have trawled through more than 50 research papers
    to find examples where it is possible to measure the suitability of how
    a species responds.
    Eat or be eaten
    “We
    wanted to find species for which we have some sort of yardstick to
    assess how much they should be responding,” Professor Visser told the
    BBC News website.
    “For example, we know that great tits are changing
    their behaviour because of the availability of food, so that should be
    the yardstick here; but there might also be instances when issues such
    as predation are more important.”
    Visser and Both identified 11
    cases with an appropriate yardstick, and found that in eight of these
    the species in question is either responding more or less than would
    appear to be optimal.
    Caterpillars are the staple food for infant
    great tits; and as the emergence of caterpillars in the European Spring
    is getting earlier, so, logically, should the time at which great tits
    lay their eggs In fact, one population that has been extensively
    studied, at Wytham Wood in the UK, has brought its egg laying forward,
    but by too much. By contrast, another population at Hoge Veluwe, in the
    Netherlands, is laying at the same time as in previous years.
    Neither of these responses appears to be the best available for the bird.
    In
    North America, the wood warbler has not adapted its migration pattern
    to the earlier emergence of caterpillars in its breeding ground; and in
    the Netherlands, the honey buzzard is also failing to exploit the
    earlier appearance of wasps which it eats.
    The red admiral
    butterfly, however, is arriving on the UK’s shores earlier from its
    winter grounds in north Africa; but the staple food of its larvae, the
    common nettle, continues to flower at the same time each year.
    Loss of synchrony
    The reasons why these species do not appear to be adapting optimally are unclear.
    They
    may be unable to, they may not be subject to a pressure large enough to
    induce change, or each may be subject to several pressures pushing them
    in contradictory directions.
    Whatever the explanations, Marcel Visser believes his findings sound a clear warning.
    “The
    conclusion must be that many species are shifting at an inappropriate
    rate, out of synchrony with their food sources, and this must in the
    end be detrimental.
    “The point has often been made that temperatures
    have increased before in the Earth’s past; but the rate now is 100
    times greater.
    “And whereas in those times there were large areas of
    natural habitat, now it’s much more difficult for animals to change or
    migrate; plus there’s loss of genetic diversity, habitat fragmentation
    - it’s just much more difficult for species than 1,000 years ago.”