How the animal world is adapting to climate change

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Take, for example, what is called the escalator to extinction, a phenomenon as sad as it is insidious. Patterns of temperature and humidity change with altitude, as do the species that inhabit each terrain. On a warming planet, animals and plants that have adapted to particular altitudes are forced to climb until they reach the top and, with nowhere to go, perish. Studies have documented this effect on birds, moths and tree seedlings, and it seems likely that other life forms, including mammals, reptiles, and amphibians, are vulnerable to this upward migration to l ‘oversight. With 25 to 85% of the world’s species currently moving, one wonders if the hottest regions of the planet will become arid lands, devoid of all life, like the “dead zone” of the Gulf of Mexico, which covers somewhere about 7,000 square miles.

Despite the seriousness of its subject matter, this is not a depressing book. Award-winning biologist and author whose early work focused on bees, feathers, seeds and gorillas, Hanson is an affable guide and storyteller, with a knack for analogy, a sense of humor and curiosity. naturalness of a scientist. In a compact chemistry lesson using a jar of pickles and a lighted match, he and his son, Noah, perform an experiment to demonstrate the power of carbon dioxide. On another occasion, he picks up his ax on a dead pine tree in his yard to try to find out if his tree is being attacked by destructive bark beetles.

Elsewhere, Hanson points to the ubiquity of carbon dioxide, its gradual underground conversion to fossil fuels (oil, coal, natural gas), and its much faster release into ecosystems when we burn it. In the oceans, acidification corrodes and weakens the protective shells of tiny mollusks essential to marine food ecosystems, and causes sensory confusion in fish that depend on water chemistry to find mates, meals, homes and avoid predators. When coral reefs shrink, it not only reduces food, but also the cover of reef dwellers.

In this deteriorating world, it takes a certain evolutionary agility to prevent a species from losing its grip on life, sometimes literally. An experiment with anole lizards demonstrates rapid natural selection favoring feet and toes better able to cling to twigs and branches during severe storms. The small reptiles cling to a stick while being subjected to close-range blasts from a leaf blower. I don’t imagine the anoles enjoyed being subjected to near hurricane-force winds (no matter how loud!), But I was delighted to see that they were all sent back into the sea. nature, apparently unharmed.


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