Saturday, December 26, 2009

Global warming will cause plants and animals to migrate

Peter N. Spotts in the Christian Science Monitor: …Enter Scott Loarie. a researcher at the Carnegie Institution's department of global ecology in Stanford, Calif. He and five colleagues have unveiled a new approach to assessing how changing climate will affect various habitats. They dub the measure "climate velocity."

The measure takes into account changing temperatures as broad climate zones migrate north and south away from the equator, and hike their way up the sides of mountains. And it looks at the geographic setting in which the habitats appear -- whether on a broad flat landscape or in mountains, for instance.

One broad observation from the data: plants and animals that live in broad, relatively flat areas – the Great Plains, regions containing mangrove forests, or the African Veldt – are likely to have the toughest time dealing with global warming.

Organisms living there must migrate or have their seeds dispersed over long distances to keep up with climate belts that are moving more rapidly than many species can match. This is especially true for plants and animals that live in patchy, geographically small protected areas. Habitats are fragmented, often with no "corridors" connecting them to allow for easy migration.

Plants and animals in mountain regions, on the other hand, appear to face a lower risk of being overtaken by global warming, because mountains exhibit large temperature swings with altitude; it's a fairly short walk or flight up-slope to reach a more hospitable climate zone. The exception: organisms that live on mountain summits and have nowhere else to go.

…For years, researchers have been trying to figure out how plants and animals would respond to global warming. But Loarie and his colleagues decided to ask the question from a different perspective: "What is the landscape's potential to buffer these changes?"

"It's really going from sounding the alarm over climate change to really trying to say: Look, some change is going to happen. How do we adapt to that change?" he explains. The key, he says, is the speed of change….

From 1865: "HERD OF BUFFALOES DRIVEN TO THE EDGE OF THE CHASM, Opposite Garden Island." Victoria Falls with buffalo hunt.


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