Climate Change Is Making Animals Smaller
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."
- Redwoods are the world's tallest trees.
- Now scientists have discovered they are even bigger than we thought.
- Using laser technology they map the 80-meter giants.
- Trees are a key plank in the fight against climate change.
They are among the largest trees in the world, descendants of forests where dinosaurs roamed.
Pixabay / Simi Luft<p><span>Until recently, measuring these trees meant scaling their 80 meter high trunks with a tape measure. Now, a team of scientists from University College London and the University of Maryland uses advanced laser scanning, to create 3D maps and calculate the total mass.</span></p><p>The results are striking: suggesting the trees <a href="https://www.nature.com/articles/s41598-020-73733-6" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">may be as much as 30% larger than earlier measurements suggested.</a> Part of that could be due to the additional trunks the Redwoods can grow as they age, <a href="https://www.nature.com/articles/s41598-020-73733-6" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">a process known as reiteration</a>.</p>
New 3D measurements of large redwood trees for biomass and structure. Nature / UCL<p>Measuring the trees more accurately is important because carbon capture will probably play a key role in the battle against climate change. Forest <a href="https://www.wri.org/blog/2020/09/carbon-sequestration-natural-forest-regrowth" target="_blank">growth could absorb billions of tons</a> of carbon dioxide from the atmosphere each year.</p><p>"The importance of big trees is widely-recognised in terms of carbon storage, demographics and impact on their surrounding ecosystems," the authors wrote<a href="https://www.nature.com/articles/s41598-020-73733-6" target="_blank"> in the journal Nature</a>. "Unfortunately the importance of big trees is in direct proportion to the difficulty of measuring them."</p><p>Redwoods are so long lived because of their ability to <a href="https://www.nature.com/articles/s41598-020-73733-6" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">cope with climate change, resist disease and even survive fire damage</a>, the scientists say. Almost a fifth of their volume may be bark, which helps protect them.</p>
Carbon Capture Champions<p><span>Earlier research by scientists at Humboldt University and the University of Washington found that </span><a href="https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S0378112716302584" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">Redwood forests store almost 2,600 tonnes of carbon per hectare</a><span>, their bark alone containing more carbon than any other neighboring species.</span></p><p>While the importance of trees in fighting climate change is widely accepted, not all species enjoy the same protection as California's coastal Redwoods. In 2019 the world lost the equivalent of <a href="https://www.worldwildlife.org/threats/deforestation-and-forest-degradation" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">30 soccer fields of forest cover every minute</a>, due to agricultural expansion, logging and fires, according to The Worldwide Fund for Nature (WWF).</p>
Pixabay<p>Although <a href="https://c402277.ssl.cf1.rackcdn.com/publications/1420/files/original/Deforestation_fronts_-_drivers_and_responses_in_a_changing_world_-_full_report_%281%29.pdf?1610810475" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">the rate of loss is reported to have slowed in recent years</a>, reforesting the world to help stem climate change is a massive task.</p><p><span>That's why the World Economic Forum launched the Trillion Trees Challenge (</span><a href="https://www.1t.org/" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">1t.org</a><span>) and is engaging organizations and individuals across the globe through its </span><a href="https://uplink.weforum.org/uplink/s/uplink-issue/a002o00000vOf09AAC/trillion-trees" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">Uplink innovation crowdsourcing platform</a><span> to support the project.</span></p><p>That's backed up by research led by ETH Zurich/Crowther Lab showing there's potential to restore tree coverage across 2.2 billion acres of degraded land.</p><p>"Forests are critical to the health of the planet," according to <a href="https://www.1t.org/" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">1t.org</a>. "They sequester carbon, regulate global temperatures and freshwater flows, recharge groundwater, anchor fertile soil and act as flood barriers."</p><p><em data-redactor-tag="em" data-verified="redactor">Reposted with permission from the </em><span><em data-redactor-tag="em" data-verified="redactor"><a href="https://www.weforum.org/agenda/2021/03/redwoods-store-more-co2-and-are-more-enormous-than-we-thought/" target="_blank">World Economic Forum</a>.</em></span></p>
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