Tag Archives: species survival

Early springs surprise many species

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE As seasonal change suffers ever more disruption, many species are struggling to adapt quickly enough. LONDON, 7 April – Spring is arriving earlier. This is not necessarily welcome news for Arctic creatures or the roe deer of France. It could be awkward for flower festival organisers as well. Julienne Stroeve of the US National Snow and Ice Data Centre and colleagues will report in Geophysical Research Letters that the length of the Arctic melt season is growing by several days each decade. When the melt starts earlier, the Arctic Ocean absorbs more radiation: enough in some places to melt four feet in thickness from the Arctic ice cap. “The lengthening of the melt season is allowing for more of the sun’s energy to get stored in the oceans and increase ice melt during the summer, overall weakening the sea ice cover,” says Stroeve. The Arctic sea ice has now been in decline for four decades. The seven lowest September sea ice extents in the satellite record have all occurred in the last seven years. A new examination of satellite imagery and data from 1979 to the present shows that the Beaufort and Chukchi Seas are freezing up between six and 11 days later per decade. But the earlier melt is more ominous than the later freeze: the sun is higher and brighter, and delivers more warmth to the seas.

Festival disruption

The earlier spring presents no problems for many plants but it may not be much fun for the organisers of flower festivals who like to announce their events well in advance. Tim Sparks of Coventry University reports in the journal Climate Research that over its 46-year history, the Thriplow Daffodil Weekend in Cambridgeshire in eastern England has been forced to bring its dates forward by 26 days. The event can attract up to 10,000 visitors, and has raised £300,000 (US $500,000) for charity, so it clearly helps the organisers to set up some advance publicity. Since 1969, mean temperatures in March and April in the UK have risen by 1.8°C. “The study represents one of the first solid pieces of evidence of flower tourism having to adapt to climate change,” said Professor Sparks. “The issues faced by Thriplow are a microcosm of the wider picture.” Flower festivals may be able to adapt. Sadly, the roe deer of Champagne have yet to get the message about climate change. To flourish, both nectar seekers and herbivores have to time their breeding patterns to the surge in plant growth. Three French scientists looked at records of a population of roe deer in the Champagne region of France, and found that although spring has been arriving increasingly earlier, the fawns are being born at around the same dates as they were 27 years ago, and their survival rate is falling, they report in the Public Library of Science journal PLOS Biology. Overall, the roe deer population in the region is also in decline. Great tits have kept up with climate change, because reproduction is cued by temperature, so they are around at the same time as the explosion in food sources. What sets the biological pace for roe deer is day length, the authors think, and this is not affected by climate change. – Climate News Network

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE As seasonal change suffers ever more disruption, many species are struggling to adapt quickly enough. LONDON, 7 April – Spring is arriving earlier. This is not necessarily welcome news for Arctic creatures or the roe deer of France. It could be awkward for flower festival organisers as well. Julienne Stroeve of the US National Snow and Ice Data Centre and colleagues will report in Geophysical Research Letters that the length of the Arctic melt season is growing by several days each decade. When the melt starts earlier, the Arctic Ocean absorbs more radiation: enough in some places to melt four feet in thickness from the Arctic ice cap. “The lengthening of the melt season is allowing for more of the sun’s energy to get stored in the oceans and increase ice melt during the summer, overall weakening the sea ice cover,” says Stroeve. The Arctic sea ice has now been in decline for four decades. The seven lowest September sea ice extents in the satellite record have all occurred in the last seven years. A new examination of satellite imagery and data from 1979 to the present shows that the Beaufort and Chukchi Seas are freezing up between six and 11 days later per decade. But the earlier melt is more ominous than the later freeze: the sun is higher and brighter, and delivers more warmth to the seas.

Festival disruption

The earlier spring presents no problems for many plants but it may not be much fun for the organisers of flower festivals who like to announce their events well in advance. Tim Sparks of Coventry University reports in the journal Climate Research that over its 46-year history, the Thriplow Daffodil Weekend in Cambridgeshire in eastern England has been forced to bring its dates forward by 26 days. The event can attract up to 10,000 visitors, and has raised £300,000 (US $500,000) for charity, so it clearly helps the organisers to set up some advance publicity. Since 1969, mean temperatures in March and April in the UK have risen by 1.8°C. “The study represents one of the first solid pieces of evidence of flower tourism having to adapt to climate change,” said Professor Sparks. “The issues faced by Thriplow are a microcosm of the wider picture.” Flower festivals may be able to adapt. Sadly, the roe deer of Champagne have yet to get the message about climate change. To flourish, both nectar seekers and herbivores have to time their breeding patterns to the surge in plant growth. Three French scientists looked at records of a population of roe deer in the Champagne region of France, and found that although spring has been arriving increasingly earlier, the fawns are being born at around the same dates as they were 27 years ago, and their survival rate is falling, they report in the Public Library of Science journal PLOS Biology. Overall, the roe deer population in the region is also in decline. Great tits have kept up with climate change, because reproduction is cued by temperature, so they are around at the same time as the explosion in food sources. What sets the biological pace for roe deer is day length, the authors think, and this is not affected by climate change. – Climate News Network

Desert yields clues to species’ survival

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE Research into one of the world’s oldest and driest deserts has unearthed evidence of the evolutionary timeline for species that have avoided extinction by adapting to dramatic climate change LONDON, June 26 − Biodiversity’s response to global warming is difficult to predict, but new research shows that species in the distant past have adapted to, and colonised, new and increasingly arid desert zones during a period of dramatic change. The less encouraging finding from the University of Chile scientists who have studied geological evidence from the Atacama-Sechura desert region − one of the Earth’s oldest and driest deserts − is that this adaptation takes about six million years. Any wildlife response to dramatic climate change – and the kind predicted in the worst case scenario for the 21st century is certainly in the dramatic category − depends on a very large number of factors.

Barriers to movement

These include how fast plants or small animals can move to cooler zones south or north; what barriers – such as mountain ranges, lakes, cities, motorways or farms − there might be to movement; and, of course, whether the ecosystem that supports any particular species can move at the same rate. Researchers have repeatedly warned of mass extinction under conditions of climate change, but it has been much harder to calculate the rates at which species might adapt or evolve, and populations recover, in new habitats. However, there are lessons to be learned from the recent geological past − long before Homo sapiens began to create extra difficulties for the rest of creation. Climate scientists can date changes in global temperatures with reasonable accuracy, palaeontologists can identify and date fossils of characteristic climate zone species with some precision, and geneticists can measure the rate at which DNA has evolved to adapt to new environments. This last technique now delivers a good measure of evolutionary timelines. Pablo Guerrero and fellow researchers at the University of Chile’s Department of Ecological Sciences report in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences that they used geological evidence to put dates to the rainfall history of the ancient Atacama-Sechura desert region of Chile and Peru and the DNA readings to measure the rates at which three different kinds of plant and one genus of lizard evolved to colonise the new habitat.

Huge time lags

They found that these groups of plants and animals made their homes in the desert only in the last 10 million years – a good 20 million years after the onset of aridity in the region. There were also huge lags – from 4 million to 14 million years − between the time these creatures moved into the desert region and when they colonised the hyper-arid places. These ultra-dry parts of the region developed about 8 million years ago, but the most diverse of the plant group moved in only two million years ago. “Similar evolutionary lag times may occur in other organisms and habitats, but these results are important in suggesting that many lineages may require very long time scales to adapt to modern desertification and climate change,” the scientists in Chile report. − Climate News Network        

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE Research into one of the world’s oldest and driest deserts has unearthed evidence of the evolutionary timeline for species that have avoided extinction by adapting to dramatic climate change LONDON, June 26 − Biodiversity’s response to global warming is difficult to predict, but new research shows that species in the distant past have adapted to, and colonised, new and increasingly arid desert zones during a period of dramatic change. The less encouraging finding from the University of Chile scientists who have studied geological evidence from the Atacama-Sechura desert region − one of the Earth’s oldest and driest deserts − is that this adaptation takes about six million years. Any wildlife response to dramatic climate change – and the kind predicted in the worst case scenario for the 21st century is certainly in the dramatic category − depends on a very large number of factors.

Barriers to movement

These include how fast plants or small animals can move to cooler zones south or north; what barriers – such as mountain ranges, lakes, cities, motorways or farms − there might be to movement; and, of course, whether the ecosystem that supports any particular species can move at the same rate. Researchers have repeatedly warned of mass extinction under conditions of climate change, but it has been much harder to calculate the rates at which species might adapt or evolve, and populations recover, in new habitats. However, there are lessons to be learned from the recent geological past − long before Homo sapiens began to create extra difficulties for the rest of creation. Climate scientists can date changes in global temperatures with reasonable accuracy, palaeontologists can identify and date fossils of characteristic climate zone species with some precision, and geneticists can measure the rate at which DNA has evolved to adapt to new environments. This last technique now delivers a good measure of evolutionary timelines. Pablo Guerrero and fellow researchers at the University of Chile’s Department of Ecological Sciences report in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences that they used geological evidence to put dates to the rainfall history of the ancient Atacama-Sechura desert region of Chile and Peru and the DNA readings to measure the rates at which three different kinds of plant and one genus of lizard evolved to colonise the new habitat.

Huge time lags

They found that these groups of plants and animals made their homes in the desert only in the last 10 million years – a good 20 million years after the onset of aridity in the region. There were also huge lags – from 4 million to 14 million years − between the time these creatures moved into the desert region and when they colonised the hyper-arid places. These ultra-dry parts of the region developed about 8 million years ago, but the most diverse of the plant group moved in only two million years ago. “Similar evolutionary lag times may occur in other organisms and habitats, but these results are important in suggesting that many lineages may require very long time scales to adapt to modern desertification and climate change,” the scientists in Chile report. − Climate News Network