Believe it or not, spring is coming, but will global warming change things? A new study shows that the breeding ranges of North American birds have shifted northward coinciding with a period of increasing global temperatures. Eventually, some of our favorite birds may disappear completely. And those trees they?re nesting in seem to change colors later and later every year?or maybe not at all?which is another sign of global warming. Meanwhile, birds are changing their habits to become more like humans in one very important way.
In LiveScience.com, Charles Q. Choi reports that older birds "have now been seen for the first time behaving like grandparents." There are very few animal species in which grandparents help care for the offspring?besides humans, only pilot whales and some monkeys do so. Researcher ? researchers have occasionally seen older adults engage in what might be grandparenting. Researcher David Richardson studied the Seychelles warbler, which live only on one tiny island, and found that older adult birds that no longer breed often help their children to rear their young. Richardson thinks that this helps the grandparents to make sure their genes persist.
Researchers Alan Hitch and Paul Leberg studied the breeding ranges of 56 bird species using data collected by the North American Breeding Bird Survey, which has been tracking bird migration since 1966.
They mostly studied the types of birds that primarily live in backyards or forests and eat seeds or insects. Hitch says, ?Our results add to an increasing body of scientific research documenting the effects of global climate change,? Hitch said. ?It also raises questions about whether northward shifting ranges could be detrimental to some species.?
In the February 5 edition of the Independent, Amol Rajan writes that "a full month before the official end of winter, the British springtime has most definitely sprung." He quotes researcher Kate Lewthwaite as saying, "The natural world is giving us clear year-on-year indications that things are changing. The timing of natural events is one of the most responsive aspects of the natural world to warming, so it is an important indicator of change."
Scientists say we can blame increasing amounts of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere for prolonging the growing season of the trees. While that means we miss our colorful autumns, it may be good news for forestry industries. When researcher David F. Karnosky studied forests in Wisconsin and across the planet in Italy, he found that forests on both continents stayed greener longer as CO2 levels rose, independent of temperature changes. In other words, rising carbon dioxide levels in the atmosphere act directly to delay the usual autumn spectacle of changing colors and falling leaves in northern hardwood forests. Karnosky says, ?Basically, this is a good-news story for our region?s forests. It suggests that they will become a bit more productive due to the extra carbon being taken up in the autumn, along with the increased photosynthesis throughout the growing season.?
But this could be bad news for the rest of us, since it will make these industries reluctant to push for change in our government's environmental policies. As the world warms up, big business interests may support changes in areas such as agriculture that bring in more short term gains. This could cause them to actually PROMOTE more greenhouse gas emissions. Remember: you read it first here.
Art credit: freeimages.co.uk
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