Climate and the Community
As the climate changes, organisms have trouble adapting to their fluctuating environment. Because most creatures have evolved to specific climate conditions and weather patterns, it is taxing when these standards move beyond what the organism can tolerate.The quick solution would appear to be migration, but even the most travel ready organisms would be at a disadvantage when they move outside of their community. Many organisms have coevolved with the other species in its ecosystem and rely upon each other for support.
For example, Splachnum ampullulaceum (pictured below)is a moss that lives on the dung of white tailed deer — only white tailed deer. The deer are drawn into bogs by the promise of ripening cranberries and leave droppings, which S. ampullulaceum quickly colonize. If the deer were to migrate, the moss evolved specifically for their excrement would be left behind and bereft of a habitat. In this way, ecosystem migrations are slowed by their weakest link. Although birds and other animals may find it easy to fly, swim, crawl, or hop away, the greener members of their ecosystem are fiercely constrained. Splachnum ampullulaceum rises only a few centimeters from the dung pile it calls its temporary home and has little power to migrate thousands of miles from its bog.
Pictured Below: Splachnum ampullulaceum
Although migration can do a lot to mitigate the effects of climate change, it cannot always be implemented fast enough for entire communities to move. The species richness (number of species) in a community is expected to drop when faster migration is required. Although this can weaken a community’s resilience, a loss in biodiversity doesn’t have to be a death sentence. Migration still brings a ray of hope to ecosystems around the warming globe.
– By Caroline G.
To learn more about how individuals interact in a community click this link: http://www.globalchange.umich.edu/globalchange1/current/lectures/ecol_com/ecol_com.html
Anthelme, F. (2014). Facilitation among plants in alpine environments in a face of climate change.Frontiers in Plant Scince, 5, 1-15. doi: 10.3389/fpls.2014.00387 http://web.b.ebscohost.com/ehost/pdfviewer/pdfviewer?sid=8f4505f6-9657-4190-a73e-fab63eea13c2%40sessionmgr198&vid=3&hid=106
Kimmerer, R. H. (2003). Gathering Moss: A Natural and Cultural History of Mosses. Oregon State University Press: Corvallis.
Splachnum ampullulaceum. (2004). [Picture of Splachnum ampullulaceum including sporophyte]. United States Department of Agriculture Natural Resource Conservation Service. Retrieved from: http://plants.usda.gov/core/profile?symbol=SPAM5
The Complexity of Bird Migration
Even for the species that are able to migrate to avoid the dangers of environmental changes due to climate change, the path is sometimes more complex than one might think. The speed of the habitat changes due to climate warming is one of the factors that makes it difficult for migratory birds (who are already accustomed to seasonal movement) to adapt.
As birds attempt to acclimate to the changing winter temperatures in the Northern Hemisphere, they’re beginning to arrive early from their southern habitat, and leave later. This change has been slow in coming. Now that they are beginning to spend a longer period in their northern breeding area they have encountered a new problem. The food supply is inadequate for this change. There are not enough worms and insects to accommodate the birds longer stay and many birds are beginning to starve as a result.
A recent Canadian study has shown that the Wood Thrush, a migratory songbird (pictured below), has been consistent in its departure times but very inconsistent in its path of migration.
Wood thrush–Steve Maslowski/USFWS
The adaptation of migratory timing and migratory routes has put some bird species in harm’s way by interjecting their migratory season with the hurricane season in the North Atlantic. As common sense would presume, hurricanes and birds are not a good mix.
Many people may not realize that birds are very sensitive to even small changes in temperature.(A change of 2 degrees fahrenheit can reduce a small bird’s chance of survival by 40%). Since it is estimated that the average temperature on the planet will rise between 3 and 6 degrees fahrenheit by the year 2200, birds will need to adapt quickly, along with the entire planetary ecosystem.
If you are interested in learning more about the complexity of bird migration the following link is a good place to start.
Global climate change really affects the Migration pattern of a Water Fowls. An example of this is that it affects some of the breeding grounds for these birds. One of these breeding grounds is the Prairie Pothole Region,which is located on the border of Canada and the United States. “This can lead to a 9-69 percent reduction in the abundance of ducks breeding” . Some of the species that this affects are mallards, gadwall, blue winged teal, northern pintail, canvasbacks, redheads, and ruddy ducks.