Quantcast
Climate

National Geographic's Stunning Portraits Bare the Stark Reality of Climate Change

Every species adapts to its environment over time (or dies out trying), but climate change is simply happening too fast for most plants and animals to get their evolutionary bearings. Extreme weather, shifting seasons, changes in food availability and emerging diseases are just a small sampling of how global warming is wreaking havoc on wildlife—especially species that are already having a rough go of it.

But there's a minority of creatures actually thriving (for now, anyway) under the same conditions making life impossible for so many others. In the November issue of National Geographic, dedicated solely to climate change, journalist Jennifer Holland shows us which animals are adapting and which ... well, not so much. The photos and captions used in this article are excerpted from her article.

All the images come from the Photo Ark, photographer Joel Sartore's ambitious project to take portraits of the world's 12,000 captive species. So far, Sartore has documented about 5,000 and he's still busy clicking away—his goal is to inspire people to stop the extinction crisis before his subjects are gone in a flash.

Spectacled Eider: Specialized needs put these northern ducks at risk. In winter, the birds gather in a small, cold, nutrient-rich area of the Bering Sea to dive for clams and other marine life. But as ice retreats, spectacled eiders’ habitats and access to food resources in their wintering grounds are changing. Meanwhile coastal changes are altering the ducks’ breeding habitat on tundra wetlands. Alaska Sealife Center, Seward. Photo credit: Joel Sartore / National Geographic

Merriam’s Kangaroo Rat: This pair takes the heat in stride. In the southwestern U.S. and Mexico, kangaroo rats are already well-adapted to arid conditions, and they’ve stayed robust during previous temperature hikes. The rodents are quick and flexible reproducers, and their diet of diverse seeds and occasional insects gives them wiggle room if some plant and bug species fizzle in the heat. Fort Worth Zoo, Texas. Photo credit: Joel Sartore / National Geographic

 

Arctic Fox: As tundra habitat melts, this snow-loving fox will find fewer seal carcasses left on ice by polar bears and fewer lemmings—food for fox pups—whose numbers peak in the coldest winters. It may also face competition as the more adaptable red fox expands north. Great Bend Brit Spaugh Zoo, Kansas. Photo credit: Joel Sartore / National Geographic

 

American Dog Tick: Ticks are faring well. Climate affects the critter's life cycle, influencing the intricate dance among the arachnid, its infected hosts, and the diseases it spreads (for the American dog tick, that includes Rocky Mountain spotted fever and tularemia). But the consequences of changing climate patterns are complex and inconsistent: Disease transmission to humans may go up in some areas, down in others. Meanwhile, in the eastern U.S. certain species, like the black-legged tick, are emerging weeks early from their winter slumber to feed—and are adapting well to the new schedule. Lincoln, Nebraska. Photo credit: Joel Sartore / National Geographic

 

Peninsular Pronghorn: Some wild pronghorn have shown marked recovery with protection, but this subspecies remains at the edge. Existing only on the Baja California Sur peninsula, fewer than 100 wild peninsular pronghorn survive, along with a herd of captive animals used to help bolster the wild population. The ungulates are adapted to desert conditions, but further warming and reduced rainfall will affect both their winter and summer forage. Los Angeles Zoo, California. Photo credit: Joel Sartore / National Geographic

Read page 1

White-Fronted Lemur: Over the next 70 years, lemur species on Madagascar could lose about 60 percent of their habitat due to climate change. If climate were the animals’ only foe, perhaps the white-fronted lemur could survive; climate change won’t shrink its lowland and montane habitat. But other factors may—chief among them, slash-and-burn agriculture and a growing human population. Naples Zoo, Florida. Photo credit: Joel Sartore / National Geographic

 

American Bullfrog: This native of North America—a voracious predator and tough competitor that spreads amphibian disease—has made its way onto other continents and spread like an army, especially in South America. It is by leaps and bounds one of the worst (most successful) invasive species on the planet. Climate change will slow its advance in some areas, but other highly biodiverse habitats will become more bullfrog friendly, meaning further raids against native species. Bennet, Nebraska. Photo credit: Joel Sartore / National Geographic

 

Bengal Tiger: Wild tigers are in drastic decline, with perhaps 3,000 left. Eventually they’ll need scuba gear to live in the mangrove-dominated Sundarbans of Bangladesh. A World Wildlife Fund–led study reports that a predicted 11-inch rise above sea levels from the year 2000 would destroy most tiger habitat in that region. Better news in Bhutan: As forests move upslope, tigers will likely shift with them, heading deep into northern parklands along major river valleys. Sadly, they would displace or prey on already struggling snow leopards. Alabama Gulf Coast Zoo. Photo credit: Joel Sartore / National Geographic

 

The November issue of National Geographic is dedicated to climate change.

YOU MIGHT ALSO LIKE

Plastic Bags and Fishing Nets Found in Stomach of Dead Whale

295 Bears Killed in Florida’s First Black Bear Hunt in Decades

Palau Creates One of the World’s Largest Marine Sanctuaries

Acclaimed Mermaid Delivers Strong Message to Chicken of the Sea

Show Comments ()
Sponsored
Popular

New Mexico Tribes Step Up to Protect Land Before Fossil Fuels Vote

Native American tribes are voicing concerns and demanding input on regulations on fossil fuel development in a New Mexico county, in the latest wave of tribal voices growing louder on oil and gas development across the country.

Sandoval County, home to 12 Native tribes, will hold a final vote in January on a draft ordinance to regulate oil and gas development in the county. In packed public meetings over the proposed ordinance last week, tribal leaders called out the lack of tribal input in the draft ordinance and raised concerns over the ordinance's lack of protections for water, air and land resources.

Keep reading... Show less
iStock

How to Talk to Your Relatives About Climate Change: A Guide for the Holidays

By Abigail Dillen

Most people who know me are too polite to question climate change when I'm around, but there are relatives and old family friends who hint at the great divide between their worldviews and mine. I think they sincerely believe that I would crush the economy forever if I had my way. On the other end of the spectrum are friends and family who are alarmed by climate and genuinely want to know what we and our elected officials can do about it. But no matter who's in the mix, it's hard to bring my work home for the holidays. Most of the time it feels easier to leave our existential crisis unmentioned.

Keep reading... Show less
Print Your City! The New Raw

3D Printing Turns Plastic Trash Into Public Furniture

Dutch designers are giving Amsterdam's plastic trash a second life by creating 3D-printed benches out of discarded plastic bags.

The "XXX" plastic bench, a collaboration between The New Raw and Aectual, made its debut in late October in the Dutch capital.

Keep reading... Show less
Popular

Chocolate Makers Agree to Stop Cutting Down Forests in West Africa for Cocoa

By Mike Gaworecki

At COP23, the UN climate talks in Bonn, Germany that wrapped up last week, top cocoa-producing countries in West Africa announced new commitments to end the massive deforestation for cocoa that is occurring within their borders.

Ivory Coast and Ghana are the number one and number two cocoa-producing nations on Earth, respectively. Together, they produce about two-thirds of the world's cocoa, but that production has been tied to high rates of deforestation as well as child labor and other human rights abuses.

Keep reading... Show less
Sponsored
Food

Why Thanksgiving Is the Perfect Time to Give Up Meat

By Peter Kalmus

Of all our holidays, Thanksgiving is my favorite. It's a time out from the frenetic pace of life, a time for families to slow down and gather in the kitchen—to just be. It doesn't lend itself to the garish onslaught of commercialization. (You can sense the capitalist frustration and over-compensation in that oddest of add-ons, Black Friday). And for me, Thanksgiving was the perfect time to finally give up meat.

My journey to vegetarianism has been one of gradual awareness. In college, while living off campus, I discovered the wonders of cooking Indian food. Because the one cookbook I owned was from the Vaishnava tradition, my Indian cookery was strictly vegetarian. At a formative period of my life, I fell in love with the flavors of India. Those dishes never wanted for meat.

Keep reading... Show less
Animals
Red wolf in Randolph, North Carolina. Valerie / Flickr

Senate Republicans Push for Extinction of North Carolina's Red Wolf

Tucked away in the Senate report accompanying Monday's funding bill for the Department of the Interior is a directive to the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service to "end the Red Wolf recovery program and declare the Red Wolf extinct."

"Senate Republicans are trying to hammer a final nail in the coffin of the struggling red wolf recovery program," said Perrin de Jong, staff attorney at the Center for Biological Diversity. "It is morally reprehensible for Senator Murkowski and her committee to push for the extinction of North Carolina's most treasured wild predator. Instead of giving up on the red wolf, Congress should fund recovery efforts, something lawmakers have cynically blocked time and time again."

Keep reading... Show less
Sponsored
Health
Pexels

Connecting With Nature Improves Minds and Moods

By Marlene Cimons

Twentieth Century German social psychologist Erich Fromm first advanced the notion that humans hold an inborn connection to nature. Later, it was popularized by biologist E.O. Wilson as "the urge to affiliate with other forms of life." In the ensuing years, support for the positive effects of nature has gained considerable traction, grounded in a growing body of research.

In recent weeks, at least four new studies have emerged adding more validity to what science repeatedly has revealed: Being around nature is good for us. The latest research shows that interacting with nature makes the brain stronger and soothes the psyche.

Keep reading... Show less
Popular
The Trump administration has proposed increased entry fees at 17 national parks, including the Grand Canyon. Grand Canyon National Park / Flickr

You Now Have More Time to Protest National Park Fee Hikes

Following widespread outrage, the National Parks Service (NPS) has extended the comment period for the public to weigh in on the proposed rate hikes at 17 of the most popular national parks across the country.

The comment period now closes Dec. 22, 2017. The original deadline had been set for Thursday.

Keep reading... Show less
Sponsored

mail-copy

The best of EcoWatch, right in your inbox. Sign up for our email newsletter!