Animals failing to adapt to rapid pace of climate change

Published by Shamim Malekmian on

July 29th, 2019

Birds, including the likes of the magpie and great tit, and other common species are failing to adapt to the rapid onset of climate change, a new study has found.

The study in Nature Communications examined over 10,000 scientific studies and scores of data, finding that animals’ gradual adjustment to climate change is insufficient to protect them from the rapid onset of global warming’s adverse influences.

According to researchers, species of birds, even those with reasonable adaptive responses to climate change, were adapting too slowly “to be able to persist in the longer term”.

Researchers mainly focused on birds, in particular, European species such as the magpie and the great tit. Data on insects, reptiles and mammals was also examined.

Changes in biological events such as hibernation, mating and migration are observed as the primary responses to climate change in the world of animals.

The new study linked “delay” in such events as signifiers that species are failing to adapt to environmental changes brought on by climate change.

The researchers concluded, for example, that the squirrel’s delay in emergence from hibernation indicates “lower fitness” in the animal that may be linked to issues brought about by our changing climate.

Dr Thomas Reed, a lecturer of Zoology at University College Cork (UCC) who was one of the study’s authors, described the study’s result as “worrying” as many of the birds were “previously thought adaptable to climate change”.

While noting some small changes in animals’ behaviours in response to climate change, the models show that this “may not be enough for populations to stay in the game long term” as the rate of adaptive change is “too slow”, Dr Reed added.

“The fear is that the prognosis for species of conservation concern, for which we had little data, could be even worse,” he warned.

The scientists hope that their analysis and data can encourage further research on the resilience of animal populations in the face of global change.

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Shamim Malekmian

Shamim is a Senior Reporter at The Green News and a contributing writer to the Irish Examiner, Cork Evening Echo and the Dublin Inquirer.