Study suggests animals don’t respond fast enough to changing climate

Photo: Kranich17 / Pixabay

A new study carried out by an international team of scientists, including experts from Palacký University in Olomouc, has ascertained that animals are not responding fast enough to the changing environmental conditions. The alarming findings have been published in the prestigious scientific journal Nature Communications.

Photo: Kranich17 / Pixabay
Although animals do commonly respond to climate change, for example by shifting the time of breeding, such responses are in general insufficient to cope with the rapid pace of rising temperatures, concludes the study, carried out by a team of 64 researchers led by experts from the Leibniz Institute for Zoo and Wildlife research in Berlin.

Peter Adamík, a researcher at the Department of Zoology and Anthropology at Palacký University in Olomouc, who took part in the project, outlines more details:

“What we discovered is that while some populations of animals do respond adaptively to the ongoing climate change, other species do not.

“The worrying part of the research is that we didn’t find any uniform pattern for adaptive responses. We see that some animals are responding in the way we would expect, but others are not.”

The study focused mainly on birds because complete data on other animal groups are unavailable. One of the species directly affected by the rapidly changing climate are fly catchers, small migratory birds that return to Europe to breed in April from their African wintering quarters, explains Mr Adamcik:

“They are now arriving at a time when most of the food suitable for their young ones is already gone. So they have less food for their offspring. As a result, you have fewer and fewer young ones returning to the breeding grounds. That is affecting the populations, which are gradually dwindling.”

To carry out their research, scientists evaluated more than 10,000 studies published in scientific journals, focusing on the way animals respond to climate change, for instance by altering the timing of hibernation, reproduction or migration. Mr Adamcik says the large scope of the survey enabled them to see things from a different perspective:

Photo: Stephan Mense / Wikipedia / 3.0 Unported
“The main message for me is that we are just at the outset of comprehending what is going on with animals and their responses to the ongoing climate changes.

“While some animals will be able to respond quickly, some populations will not be able to respond fast enough because the climate change is simply too swift.”

The authors of the study hope that their analysis will stimulate further research on the resilience of animal populations in the face of global change. However, Peter Adamcík say there is still a long way before any of their findings can be applied in practice:

“There is still a long way to go for researchers to get the big picture. We now know a little bit about the responses of individual birds species but we still know very little about other animal species.”