In my last eco blog, I emphasized the ramifications of changes in earth’s temperatures on our oceans and marine species. This time, I focus on terrestrial concerns as they relate to global warming.
Global average surface temperatures have risen about twice as fast over land masses during the last century as they have over our oceans, and scientists say they have no reason to believe this trend will not continue into the next century. Predictions that averages will rise as many as 9 degrees F. have been reported. But mean temperatures tell only a part of the story. Along with the increase in heat will come extremes in weather systems which will exacerbate the problems we will face over the coming years.
But She's Not There, by Janet Glatz
“The key difference is the rate of change,” says Noah Diffenbaugh, a climate scientist at the Woods Institute for the Environment at Stanford University. “The combination of rate and magnitude over the next century is unprecedented. In the context of the geological record of the last 65 million years, this (change in the 21st century) is likely to be an order of magnitude two or three orders more rapid.”
All these changes will have profound effects on the earth’s land-based ecosystems, such as increased or decreased rainfall, major flooding, wildfires, huge storms, and tree die-offs. So what will happen to the wide spectrum of species that inhabit these ecosystems as global warming forces them to adapt or die?
Afternoon Bath, by Janet Glatz
Many environmental experts believe that migration to more habitable areas will be the predominant factor in their survival. Past studies have shown that they would have to move at a rate of half a mile per year to keep living in the temperature range to which they are accustomed, but these numbers are drastically changing.
Flat areas—savannahs, deserts, plains—were once thought to be where plants and animals will have to travel the fastest to cover the ground miles needed to keep ahead of the increasing temperatures. Now, however, new studies say that those living in mountainous zones will have to travel the fastest and farthest to escape, needing to move at upwards of 80 miles a year. Sadly, those species that already inhabit the cooler mountain tops will have nowhere to go when the mountains inevitably heat up.
Millions of years ago when the earth experienced severe warming, living things had a far greater span of time within which to adapt. Today’s warming trend is happening at a rate that will require much faster acclimation. Human development, pollution, urban sprawl, mining, energy production, and deforestation must all shift from a purely profit-based focus to one that favors a balance between business growth and hard science in order to preserve wild species’ lives, as well as our own.
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