Species can’t acclimatise to climate change fast enough

Recently a new meta-study was published where they looked into common species and how they are coping with the heat. Unfortunately the news isn’t good as species cannot acclimatise to climate change fast enough.

Typically species adapt their behaviour to new changes in the environment by altering biological events. For example, newts in Britain lay their eggs from March to May. While some Italian newts lay their eggs earlier and later in the year to avoid the hottest temperatures during the summer months. Similar to how we humans may have a siesta in the midday heat. Adaptations such as these also occur with plants flowering sooner or in the Alps, marmots ending their hibernation 3 weeks earlier than they used to.

Unable to adapt to affects

Ultimately, the natural world adapts as best it can. However, the majority of the natural world is unable to adapt to the speed of human driven climate change. For example, fish are moving to cooler waters which means elephant seals are unable to feed. This in turn means their young are growing up thinner. Meanwhile, polar bears are skinnier and less healthy as their ability and sources of prey are diminishing.

This knock on affect is happening all over. The sex of crocodiles, alligators, many turtles and other reptiles is determined by temperature; known as temperature dependant sex determination. This means more and more turtles, alligators and crocodile species being born are one gender.

Maximum temperature recorded on 27th July 2018 across Europe.

Alarmingly, the study found this even affecting common species. Therefore, species which are already threatened and endangered will likely be more severely impacted. Meanwhile common species can no longer be considered to have a secure future. The consequence of this is that more and more populations are becoming less viable in the future.

Personally I find the results alarming. Species attempt to adapt to changing environment, but they cannot do it at a sufficient pace to ensure that populations are viable. Climate change has caused irreversible damage to our biodiversity already, as evidenced by the findings of this study. The fact that species struggle to adapt to the current rate of climate change means we have to take action immediately in order to at least halt or decrease the rate.

Viktoriia Radchuk
Leibniz Institute for Zoo and Wildlife Research, Germany

What needs to be done?

Here at the European Wilderness Society we work hard to find and designate the last Wilderness’ in Europe. This can help to fight climate change as the non intervention self governed process of Wilderness leaves fallen and rotting tree’s to remain. Unlike in managed areas where tree falls are removed, the left biomass helps to reduce heat while creating a more diverse and dynamic ecosystem. If you want to help us find and designate more Wilderness consider donating below!

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