According to a study published yesterday in Nature, climate change has already affected the migration patterns of some birds.
Bird migration relies on photoperiod, which is the amount of daylight present. What researchers observed was that while most of the 48 species of birds kept pace with the earlier “green-up” periods, nine of the species did not (accounting for about 20% of those observed). Scientists used both satellite and citizen-gathered data to make these observations over a twelve year period.
While the timing of the birds’ arrival may seem arbitrary at first glance, it can have an extremely negative effect on bird populations. Birds can freeze, and newly hatched birds may not have as much food available to them as they normally would. Additionally, birds who arrive late may not have as many nesting sites available.
So what’s the big deal?
Birds are awesome! Anyone who disagrees is not to be trusted. But, since you asked…
It’s no secret that birds are dinosaurs, meaning they’ve adapted to some pretty catastrophic events in the past (see: that one asteroid that hit the Earth near the Yucatan Peninsula), but the thought that this is being accelerated, if not caused, by humans should be rather disturbing. Our continued reliance on fuel made from dinosaurs has unquestionably affected climate change on Earth, from warming oceans to more severe storms/droughts.
What’s more is the effect this has on plants, the animals and insects that feed on plants, the birds themselves, and animals/insects that rely on birds as a food source. According to the study, birds’ arrivals are increasingly lagging behind the green-up period, affecting countless other animals/insects.
While the study admits that the green-up period does not necessarily have a direct correlation to the availability of food, it is a strong indicator.
This study serves as yet another piece of evidence that not only is climate change real, but it’s having a tangible impact on the plants and animals around us. And since we’re at the top of the food chain, eventually it will effect us, too.
(cover image via Audubon.org)