2019-12-06 17:32:281 Oct 2018 01:53 AM EST
By Chanel Adams, Image source: :CC BY-SA 4.0
Birds are reportedly shrinking as the climate warms, according to a new study that was published on Wednesday, Dec. 4 in the journal Ecology Letters. Scientists are claiming it’s from climate change. A group of scientists at the University of Michigan studied over 70,000 bird specimens from 52 North American migratory bird species during the years of 1978 and 2016.
During that 38-year time period, scientists have found that the body sizes of all 52 species consistently shrank while the width of their wingspans grew. That means birds have been forced to adapt to the ever-changing climate, according to the NBC News report.
“Other studies have found a relationship between temperature and body size similar to what we found, but this is the most consistent result,” said Benjamin Winger, an assistant professor of ecology and evolutionary biology at the University of Michigan in Ann Arbor and the study’s senior author. “What we don’t know is the extent to which the shrinking bird is an adaptive response to climate change. Are they able to keep up with warming temperatures or are they lagging behind?”
Climate change shows no signs of slowing down anytime soon. Scientists are wondering how global warming caused by humans is impacting animals and their natural habitats. They’ve also studied other species that could be at risk from climate change. For example, monarch butterflies and polar bears are the next in line that are forced to adapt in order to survive.
However, this latest research shows that birds are the biggest group of animals that are at risk. Another study published back in September in the journal Science found that both ecological changes and human activities are having a profound impact on birds. This study discovered that the total bird population in both the U.S. and Canada has decreased by 3 billion from changing food supplies and habitat loss. The bird specimens that were included in the study in the journal Ecology Letters died from colliding into buildings during the spring and fall migrations.
These species typically come from the northern boreal forests and grasslands. But then they migrate to Chicago as they prepare to fly south for the winter. This could become an increasing problem if the birds can’t adapt in the face of climate change, according to Stanley Temple, a professor emeritus of forests and wildlife ecology at the University of Wiconsin-Madison.
“If temperatures continue to rise and exceed the limits of birds’ abilities to cope, they will have to respond with evolutionary changes which will take generations of time,” said Temple, who was not involved with the study. “The rapid pace of climate change may make those adjustments problematic.”
As previously mentioned, it’s not just the birds that are affected. As the climate continues to get warmer, animals will continue to suffer from what scientists predict as the direct results of climate change. The damaging consequences of global warming can be hard for some people to understand since the changes are slow. But, according to a USA Today report, the impact on the world’s ecosystems can be catastrophic is nothing is done.
Scientists in a previous study revealed that the wild bird populations of the U.S. and Canada have decreased 30% since 1970. Three billion birds have already disappeared, including a quarter of blue jays, almost half of Baltimore orioles, and hundreds of millions of sparrows and warblers, according to the report.
Massive amounts of antelope have been dying off as well. In the span of three weeks, 200,000 saiga antelopes died in the steppes of Central Asia in 2015. This makes up two-thirds of the world’s population. Scientists discovered that the rising temperatures might have led to the release of dormant bacterium in the animals, causing internal bleeding. Unfortunately, innocent animals can’t do anything about climate change. Only human beings can do something about it.
This world has become a combination of animal and human suffering. A previous United Nations study released earlier this year found that a million animal and plant species are at the risk of extinction due to the devastating humanized effects of climate change. While most of the focus is on how climate change affects humankind, the effects on animals prove that this problem should not be overlooked. The animals can’t do anything to stop climate change. Only human beings can.
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