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Can Animals Outrun Climate change?

Nearly one-tenth of hemisphere's mammals are unlikely to outrun climate change.

A safe haven could be out of reach for 9% of the Western Hemisphere's mammals, and as much as 40% in certain regions, because the animals just won't move swiftly enough to outpace climate change.

For the past decade scientists have outlined new areas suitable for mammals likely to be displaced as climate change first makes their current habitat inhospitable, then unlivable. For the first time a new study considers whether mammals will actually be able to move to those new areas before they are overrun by climate change.

Researcher Carrie Schloss says, "We underestimate the vulnerability of mammals to climate change when we look at projections of areas with suitable climate but we don't also include the ability of mammals to move, or disperse, to the new areas."

In particular, many of the hemisphere's species of primates--including tamarins, spider monkeys, marmosets and howler monkeys, some of which are already considered threatened or endangered-- will be hard-pressed to outpace climate change, as are the group of species that includes shrews and moles. Winners of the climate change race are likely to come from carnivores like coyotes and wolves, the group that includes deer and caribou, and one that includes armadillos and anteaters.

Schloss says, "Ultimately, reducing emissions, and therefore reducing the pace of climate change, may be the only certain method to make sure species are able to keep pace with climate change."

In 1998, the Master of the Key burst into Whitley Strieber's hotel room and alerted him about the upcoming climate change which has now ARRIVED, as can be seen by the photo accompanying this story, which shows recent "before" and "after" photos of Greenland.

  • Image Credit:
  • NASA


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