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."
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By Kristen Fischer
It's going to be back-to-school time soon, but will children go into the classrooms?
The American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) thinks so, but only as long as safety measures are in place.
Keeping Schools Safe<p>What will safer schools look like?</p><p>In a <a href="https://jamanetwork.com/journals/jama/fullarticle/2766822" target="_blank">JAMA article</a> published last month, <a href="https://www.jhsph.edu/faculty/directory/profile/1781/joshua-m-sharfstein" target="_blank">Dr. Joshua Sharfstein</a>, a pediatrician and professor at the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health, outlined suggestions — many of which are similar to AAP's.</p><p>Remote learning protocols must stay in place, especially as some schools stagger home and in-building learning. If another shutdown needs to occur, children will rely on distance learning completely, so it must be easy to switch to, he said.</p><p>He suggested giving parents a daily checklist to document their child's health. Kids should be screened quickly on arrival and be given hygiene supplies. Maintenance staff should use appropriate PPE and have regular cleaning schedules. A notification system should be in place if a case is identified, Sharfstein recommended.</p><p><a href="https://www.albany.edu/rockefeller/faculty/erika-martin" target="_blank">Erika Martin</a>, PhD, an associate professor of public administration and policy at University at Albany, said nutrition assistance and health services should be included. She called for tutoring programs with virtual options as well as technology access.</p>
Supporting Staff<p>Teachers and staff will be affected by safeguarding measures, noted <a href="https://directory.sph.umn.edu/bio/sph-a-z/rachel-widome" target="_blank">Rachel Widome</a>, PhD, an associate professor of epidemiology and community health at University of Minnesota.</p><p>"In order for all of the in-school precautions to work well, we'll be asking a lot of teachers and staff," Widome told Healthline. In addition to their usual workload, they'll now be asked to monitor mask-wearing, ensure children are keeping distance, and be aware of any symptoms.</p><p>Along with Sharfstein, Widome called for an increase in financial support. More employees will likely be required so teachers and staff members can keep up with the added demands.</p>
Should Kids Go Back?<p>While these guidelines may help get some schools to reopen, many people don't think children should go back to school over fears they could contract the disease and spread it to other vulnerable family members like grandparents, infant siblings, or their parents.</p><p>In a <a href="https://pediatrics.aappublications.org/content/early/2020/07/08/peds.2020-004879" target="_blank">Pediatrics</a> commentary, <a href="https://www.md.com/doctor/william-raszka-md" target="_blank">Dr. William V. Raszka, Jr.</a>, an infectious disease specialist at The University of Vermont Medical Center, argued that schools should open because school-aged children are far less important drivers of COVID-19 than adults.</p><p>But he says the risk and benefit is not equal among all students ages 5 to 18.</p><p>"Elementary schools are arguably higher priority for face-to-face schooling, since younger children are at lower risk for infection and transmission, and since parental supervision of younger children's distance learning may be particularly challenging," added Sorensen, who penned a <a href="https://jamanetwork.com/channels/health-forum/fullarticle/2767411" target="_blank">June article in JAMA</a> with reopening tips. "That means middle and high schools are more likely to emphasize distance learning."</p><p>Specific student populations, such as special education students and students with disabilities, would also benefit greatly from more time spent in face-to-face environments, Sorensen said.</p>
What Parents Can Do<p>Parents should ask for and receive frequent updates from schools about plans for the fall. They should also be informed about plans if and when COVID infections are identified, Sharfstein said.</p><p>"I'd like to see parents investing now, during the summer, in doing things that can slow and stop the spread of the virus in their communities," Widome said.</p><p>"Now is a good time for kids to practice wearing masks and get used to them as they may be wearing them for longer stretches if school starts up in person," Widome suggested.</p><p>She recommends parents try different mask designs and materials to see what children are more comfortable wearing.</p><p>"If you are using cloth face coverings, it's good to have extras on hand," Widome added.</p><p>Parents should model healthy behavior at home and while out in public — another thing that could affect how well children adapt to reopening practices, Sorensen said.</p><p>"Children may want to know more about face coverings," added <a href="https://www.linkedin.com/in/leescott/" target="_blank">Lee Scott</a>, chairwoman of the Educational Advisory Board at <a href="https://www.goddardschool.com/" target="_blank">The Goddard School</a>. "Dramatic play, such as creating or wearing a face covering, may help some children adjust to this concept." Schools can also show children photos of what faculty members look like in their masks so the students are familiar with that appearance.</p><p>Johns Hopkins University recently released its eSchool+ Initiative, a slew of resources surrounding education during the pandemic. These include a <a href="https://equityschoolplus.jhu.edu/reopening-checklist/" target="_blank">checklist for administrators</a>, report on <a href="https://equityschoolplus.jhu.edu/ethics-of-reopening/" target="_blank">ethical considerations</a>, and a tracker of <a href="https://equityschoolplus.jhu.edu/reopening-policy-tracker/" target="_blank">state and local reopening plans</a>.</p>
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