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5 Ways Climate Change Will Affect Plants and Animals • The Revelator

5 Ways Climate Change Will Affect Plants and Animals • The Revelator

tiny mangrove shoots

Researchers are trying to understand the impact of rising seas, stronger storms, and warming temperatures on a variety of issues.

Scientists have provided another reminder that, when it comes to climate change, we’re all in this together. A study published last month in Nature Climate Change concluded that at least 85% ofThe world’s population has already been affected by climate change.

“It is likely that nearly everyone in the world now experiences changes in extreme weather as a result of human greenhouse gas emissions,” Friederike Otto, a senior lecturer at the Grantham Institute for Climate Change and the Environment at Imperial College, told the Washington Post.

While we’re all in it together, not everything is equal. The United States is the most wealthy country, and plays a significant role in the release of fossil fuels into the atmosphere. However, the risks to the poorest countries are the greatest. We also know far less about how climate change will affect poorer countries — much more research and resources have been dedicated to studying North America compared to Africa or South America, the study found.

These knowledge gaps don’t just affect people, either. Numerous species of animals and plants are facing a warming world. Researchers have foundRising temperatures and their associated impacts can cause changes in behavior, reproduction and migration, as well as foraging. Thor Hanson, a biologist, wrote in a recent bookClimate change has already caused the displacement of 25% to 85% percent of species on the planet. Because the ripple effects of these new ecosystems are so widespread, we don’t know what happens to our neighbors.

But the more scientists uncover about how plants and animals — and their habitats — may change, the more effective conservation measures will be.

The RevelatorHe has been closely following the development of climate change biology. Here are five recent discoveries by scientists about climate change and wildlife.

Wisps of cottongrass blows in the wind
At the Etivlik Lake, Alaska, edge, cottongrass blows in wind. The plant is a wind-dispersed sedge. Photo by Western Arctic National Parklands, (CC-BY 2.0).

1. Take your bags. There are many bat species will need to moveThey will need to find suitable habitat because their current homes are expected to heat up and dry out. Some, like the Isabelline serotine bat (Eptesicus isabellinus), could be forced to relocate 1,000 miles. North Africa and Coastal Europe are likely to see the greatest exodus. These regions already support the most species richness.

2. It’s not easy.. While fish can swim to colder oceans as the ocean heats, plants may have trouble finding suitable habitat in a changing climate. A 2020 study found that wind-dispersed or wind-pollinated trees in the tropics or on the windward sides of mountain ranges could face the biggest problems because the wind isn’t likely to move them in a climate-friendly direction.

3. For the trees: Forest. Mangrove forests have been shown to hold up to four times more carbon than other tropical forests. They can help reduce climate change. They also protect coastlines against hurricane damage. While nature-based solutions are good news to lessen the impacts of climate change, researchers also discovered that they can be used to protect coastlines from hurricane damage. mangroves themselves are threatened by rising seas. If we want help from mangroves, we’re going to need to cut our greenhouse emissions to help them, too.

4. There are many disasters. The United States has suffered 18 climate and weather disasters totaling $1 billion each so far this year. An increase in the severity of extreme weather isn’t just an economic concern, though. Researchers believe that extreme weather events can also be a problem. take a toll on wildlifeBy killing or indirectly destroying habitat and food, or forcing wildlife from areas with greater competition or predation.

5. Take the slow lane. Sometimes all you need to be safe is a place to hide. Last year, the journal Frontiers in Ecology and the EnvironmentDedicated an entire issueNew research has been done on how to identify and manage these issues. climate-change refugia — areas where the effects of rising temperatures are largely buffered because of unique local conditions. As one of the studies explained, “As the effects of climate change accelerate, climate‐change refugia provide a slow lane to enable persistence of focal resources in the short term, and transitional havens in the long term.”

The hunt for climate refugia is another reminder of the benefits research can have on conservation, and why such scientific efforts need geographic parity so that some regions — and their biodiversity — aren’t overlooked.


Want to know more? Here’s additional coverage from The Revelator’s archives:

Move or Change: How Plants and Animals Are Trying to Survive a Warming World

Will Climate Change Push These Amphibians to the Brink?

Want to Fight Climate Change? Start by Protecting These Endangered Species

A Rare ‘Bird of Two Worlds’ Faces an Uncertain Future

Coral in Crisis: Can Replanting Efforts Halt Reefs’ Death Spiral?

Climate Change Really Gets This Researcher’s Goat

10 Species Climate Change Could Push to Extinction

See Also
Two skaters on ice outside with mountains in the background. They are posing as if gliding together.

Forests vs. Climate Change: Researchers Race to Understand What Drought Means for the World’s Trees

Climate Change Is Causing a ‘Catastrophic’ Shortage of Food for Birds in the Galápagos

Offshore Wind Power Is Ready to Boom. Here’s What That Means for Wildlife

The Race to Build Solar Power in the Desert — and Protect Rare Plants and Animals


Is deputy editor The RevelatorShe has been working as a digital editor, environmental journalist, and digital editor for over a decade. Her work has been published in The Nation. American Prospect. High Country News. Grist. Pacific StandardAmong others. She is the editor for two books on the global crisis of water.




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