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If Climate Change Accelerates, Can Plants and Animals Keep Up?

No matter WHAT ELSE 2012 brings, there's one thing we KNOW will continue in the future: Climate change and the resulting extinction of many animal species.

The ranges of species will have to change dramatically as a result of climate change (NOTE: Subscribers can still listen to this show) between now and 2100 because the climate will change more than 100 times faster than the rate at which some species can adapt. Snakes are in trouble but, surprisingly, bees and plants are adapting well.

An analysis of bee collection data over the past 130 years shows that spring arrives about 10 days earlier than in the 1880s, and bees and flowering plants have kept pace by arriving earlier in lock-step. Another study, which focuses on North American rattlesnakes, finds that snakes aren't doing that well.

Biologist Michelle Lawing says, "We find that, over the next 90 years, at best these species’ ranges will change more than 100 times faster than they have during the past 320,000 years. This rate of change is unlike anything these species have experienced, probably since their formation." How can they tell? The way a species has responded to climate change in the past predicts how they'll do in the future, and snakes can’t move fast enough to keep up with the change in suitable habitat.



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