Quantcast

Climate Change Is Making Animals Smaller

Animals
Eagles, tigers, and rhinoceroses are particularly vulnerable species. Chris Minihane / Moment / Getty Images

Think little. It will have its advantages in the future. Researchers predict that climate change will cause animals to lose 25 percent of their size as small, quick animals that are able to adapt to many environments will thrive over the next 100 years, according to a new study from the University of Southampton and published in the journal Nature Communications.


The researchers found that animals rest and eat less in extreme heat, which often stunts growth. And when small size means adaptability and survival, future generations will get smaller to meet their conditions. The research team also has some dire predictions for big animals with long life spans. Over the next century nearly 1,000 species will go extinct. These less adaptable animals often require unique environmental conditions and will not be able to withstand climate change and habitat loss. Eagles, tigers and rhinoceroses are particularly vulnerable species, according to a university press release.

"It is worrying that we are losing these big species when we don't know their full role," said Rob Cooke, lead author of the study, to The Guardian. "Without them, things could begin to degrade quite quickly. Ecosystems could start to collapse and become not what we need to survive."

The extinction of so many species will have a ripple effect as it affects ecosystems that humans rely on for food and clean water. Many large mammals disperse seeds, for example. Sure enough, humans are to blame for the impending catastrophe.

"By far the biggest threat to birds and mammals is humankind – with habitats being destroyed due to our impact on the planet, such as deforestation, hunting, intensive farming, urbanization and the effects of global warming," said Cooke in a university press release.

To perform the study, the researchers looked at 15,484 land mammals and birds. They homed in on five traits: size, how many offspring they had, breadth of habitat, diet and length of time between generations. Cooke and his team combined this data with the the International Union for Conservation of Nature's Red List of Threatened Species to determine which animals are most likely to become extinct in the next century.

"If all these extinctions [of larger animals] take place, we are fundamentally restructuring life on this planet," said Cooke to The Guardian.

While the future is bleak for large animals, it's bright for small, fast-lived, highly fertile, insect-eating animals, which can thrive in a wide-variety of habitats, like rodents and songbirds, according to the study's findings.

The researchers see their work as an opportunity for conservationists to protect species at risk. "Extinctions were previously viewed as tragic, deterministic inevitabilities, but they can also be seen as opportunities for targeted conservation actions," said Amanda Bates, Research Chair at Memorial University in Canada and one of the study's authors in a university press release. "As long as a species that is projected to become extinct persists, there is time for conservation action and we hope research such as ours can help guide this."

EcoWatch Daily Newsletter

Oil palm plantations in northeastern Borneo, state of Sabah, Malaysia. Recently planted oil palms can be seen in the bright green grassy areas and a tiny bit of natural rainforest still struggles for survival farther away. Vaara / E+ / Getty Images

Palm Oil importers in Europe will not be able to meet their self-imposed goal of only selling palm oil that is certified deforestation-free, according to a new analysis produced by the Palm Oil Transparency Coalition, as Bloomberg reported.

Read More Show Less
Scientists found the most melting near Mould Bay on Prince Patrick Island, NWT, Canada. University of Alaska Fairbanks Permafrost Laboratory

The Canadian Arctic is raising alarm bells for climate scientists. The permafrost there is thawing 70 years earlier than expected, a research team discovered, according to Reuters. It is the latest indication that the global climate crisis is ramping up faster than expected.

Read More Show Less
Sponsored
Pixabay

By Jillian Kubala, MS, RD

Cherries are one of the most beloved fruits, and for good reason.

Read More Show Less
A fuel truck carries fuel into a fracking site past the warning signs Jan. 27, 2016 near Stillwater, Oklahoma. J Pat Carter / Getty Images

By Jessica Corbett

For more than three decades, the U.S. government has mismanaged toxic oil and gas waste containing carcinogens, heavy metals and radioactive materials, according to a new Earthworks report — and with the country on track to continue drilling and fracking for fossil fuels, the advocacy group warns of growing threats to the planet and public health.

Read More Show Less
European Union blue and gold flags flying at the European Commission building in Brussels, Belgium. 35007/ iStock / Getty Images Plus

Newly adopted guidelines set forth by the European Commission Tuesday aim to tackle climate change by way of the financial sector. The move comes to bolster the success of the Sustainable Action Plan published last year to reorient capital flows toward sustainable investment and manage financial risks from climate change, environmental degradation and social issues.

Read More Show Less
Sponsored
Prime Minister Justin Trudeau delivering remarks to supporters at a Liberal Climate Action Rally in Toronto, Ontario on March 4. Arindam Shivaani / NurPhoto / Getty Images

Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau announced Tuesday that his government would once again approve the expansion of the Trans Mountain pipeline, which would triple the amount of oil transported from Alberta's tar sands to the coast of British Columbia (BC).

Read More Show Less
An exhausted polar bear wanders the streets of Norilsk, a Siberian city hundreds of miles from its natural habitat. IRINA YARINSKAYA / AFP / Getty Images

An exhausted, starving polar bear has been spotted wandering around the Siberian city of Norilsk, Reuters reported Tuesday. It is the first time a polar bear has entered the city in more than 40 years.

Read More Show Less
Bumblebees flying and pollinating a creeping thyme flower. emeliemaria / iStock / Getty Images

It pays to pollinate in Minnesota.

Read More Show Less