Scientists and researchers have speculated “cascading consequences” that are likely to occur due to a changing climate – but the true impact on human, animal and plant populations will surely unfold in a number of unknown ways.
In a recent study by Nature Climate Change a dramatic link was found between elk, plant and bird populations due to lessened mountain snowpacks. According to the study, “Climate change in the form of reduced snowfall in mountains is causing powerful and cascading shifts in mountainous plant and bird communities through the increased ability of elk to stay at high elevations over winter and consume plants.”
According to USGS Montana Cooperative Wildlife Research Unit scientist Thomas Martin, “From an elk’s perspective, less snow means an increased ability to freely browse on woody plants in winter in areas where they would not be inclined to forage in previous times due to high snowpack. Increased overwinter browsing led to a decline in deciduous trees, which reduced the number of birds that chose the habitat and increased predation on nests of those birds that did choose the habitat.”
In short, a changing climate has the potential to impact and change entire ecosystems – and the trickle down consequences stand to alter human, plant and animal patterns drastically.