We all know that climate change has seriously impacted humans as a species, so it is no surprise that plants and wildlife are struggling with the changes as well. In January 2013, The National Wildlife Federation released the report, Wildlife in a Warming World: Confronting the Climate Crisis, demonstrating how wildlife and their habitats are being affected in various regions across the United States.
A few of the key climate change related impacts seen on wildlife include shifting ecosystems, biological changes, and struggles to adapt to extreme weather events. Since average temperatures have increased overall, a noticeable shift in plant species and wildlife habitat in North America has occurred. Many species are being seen to relocate either to further north latitudes or towards higher elevations. According to the report, “fourteen species of small mammals in the Sierra Nevada region extended their ranges up in elevation by about 1,640 feet in the last century”. Also, the seasonal changes and habitat shifts are affecting species’ internal biological clocks, causing changes in migration, hibernation, and breeding. For instance, birds are migrating later than previously seen and bears are coming out of hibernation earlier in the spring. Another issue discussed in the report is the amount of stress that extreme weather events put on various species. In the western United States, droughts and low-stream flow are making it difficult for fish to breed, while off the east coast, tropical storms have decimated coastal habitats.
One of the highlighted regions in the report was the Arctic, an area where drastic changes are occurring. Several animals are facing changes to their ecosystem, including polar bears, walrus, seals, and caribou. The decrease in the amount of present sea ice is forcing polar bears and walrus, who would normally live on ice, to live on solid land, greatly affecting their hunting habits. Other animals are struggling to adapt to the decreasing levels of sea ice, particularly the ringed seal, leading them closer to extinction.
Seven other regions of the United States are also discussed, including western forests, the Mississippi River basin, the Atlantic coast, and others.
While the majority of the report focuses on how the disaster of climate change has harmed these precious species, the report ends with several ideas to slow the impact. Reducing carbon emissions, investing in clean renewable energy sources, and continued protection of people and wildlife through preparing for extreme weather events were a few of the suggestions.