Climate change seems to go faster than animal adaptations

The climate change is threatening the species in many different ways, some of which have great impact on ecosystems, and it is important to determine how living things adapt to these changes. In addition, it is very important to know if these changes allow the persistence of the populations in the long term.

For example, with the early arrival of thaw and spring, the synchronization between pollinators and flowers is impaired so that seed production can be affected, and therefore directly influence the structure of ecosystems.

Bird adaptations to climate change

To answer these questions, an international team of 64 researchers led by Viktoriia Radchuk, Alexandre Courtiol and Stephanie Kramer-Schadt from the Leibniz Institute for Zoo and Wildlife Research (Leibniz-IZW) evaluated more than 10,000 scientific publications.

Climate change
Climate change

The result of the study published in Nature Communications is worrying: although animals are responding to climate change, these responses are not enough to cover the rapid increase in temperatures , and sometimes, they change in the wrong directions.

In nature, the most common response observed to climate change is the change in the timing of biological events such as hibernation, reproduction or migration, which are phenological traits. However, changes in height, body mass and other morphological features have also been observed, but this is not something that has been systematically affected. The phenological aspects have been more so.

The researchers extracted relevant information from the scientific literature to relate changes in climate over the years to possible changes in phenological and morphological aspects. The next thing was to evaluate whether the observed aspects were associated with a longer survival or with an increase in the offspring.

“Our research was focused on birds because there was no complete information from other groups,” says lead study author Viktoriia Radchuk. He adds that “we show that in temperate regions, the increase in temperature is associated with the change of the times of biological events to earlier dates “.

[box type = »shadow» align = »» class = »» width = »»] One of the most observed adaptations is the change in the breeding season. While in many cases an advance has been detected in the time that is considered a good adaptation, in other cases a delay has been detected, which is considered a bad adaptation. [/ Box]

The results suggest that species may be in the most temperate habitat while changing fast enough to adapt to climate change. Although it may be the case that even populations that are adapting to climate change are not doing so at a pace that guarantees their future.

The results were obtained by comparing the response to climate change observed with that expected if the populations were perfectly adapted to climate change.

Even more worrying is the fact that the data include very common and abundant species such as the great tit ( Parus major ), cerrojillo flycatcher ( Ficedula hypoleuca ) or the common magpie ( Pica pica ) which are known to be adapting to change. climate relatively well.

In endemic , rare or threatened species the adaptive response has yet to be analyzed . It is feared that the forecast for the persistence of these populations for their conservation is even more pessimistic.

The researchers hope that their analyzes and the data set analyzed will stimulate research on the resilience of animal populations in the face of global change and contribute to a better prediction framework for taking management actions.

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