Animals on the Run from Climate Change
American Pika, photo courtesy Wikipedia
There’s a global exodus of animals going on right now that most of us are unaware of. Put simply, animals are migrating north at an alarming rate. Why? Because of warming temperatures.
According to a new study published in the journal Science, as quoted on MSNBC, states that animals are moving north steadily each year, at a rate much faster than previously thought. The study, conducted by Camille Parmesan of the University of Texas, analyzed over 2,000 species in the Northern Hemisphere, and tracked their movements over several years. Researchers discovered that on average, animals were moving north one mile per year. Previous studies has put this northern migration at just one-third of a mile each year.
Animals living in mountain ranges are also moving upwards, only at a much slower rate. This most recent study points to upward movement of four feet per year, while the previous study put the rate at two feet per year.
Some animals, however, are moving northward much faster than this (and, some much slower). The fastest animal is actually an insect: the British spider silometopus. In the past 25 years, this spider has moved its home range over 200 miles northward, an average of 8 miles per year.
Another good example is the pika, a small animal similar to the rabbit that’s often been studied in Yellowstone National Park. A century ago, the pika wouldn’t venture up the mountain more than 7,500 feet. Today, however, the pika can be found at 9,500 feet.
Butterflies are another example. While some butterflies are making drastic movements northwards, even changing countries (like some butterflies migrating from the England to Ireland), others are declining simply because they have nowhere to go due to habitat loss.
It’s easy to understand why animals are fleeing northward. The past ten years have been the hottest on record. And, temperatures keep rising. So, scientists expect this exodus to continue, or even accelerate, in the years to come.