Climate change threw our wonderfully balanced planet into chaos. As the oceans and forests are transformed and ecosystems are shocked, maybe a million species appear on the verge of extinction. But there can still be hope for these organisms. Some will change their behavior in response to rising global temperatures; can, say, be reproduced earlier in the year when it is cooler. Others may even develop to cope ̵
Currently scientists have no idea how these adaptations can be played. A new book in Nature Communications co-authored by more than 60 researchers, aims to introduce a measure of clarity. By sifting 10,000 previous studies, the researchers found that the climatic chaos we have settled may simply be too intense [Editor’s note: The researchers scanned 10,000 abstracts, but their analysis is based on data from 58 studies]. Some species seem to adapt but do not do so quickly. This means, in a word, doom.
To determine how a species adapts to the crazy climate, you usually look at two things: morphology and phenology. Morphology refers to physiological changes such as the aforementioned shrinkage effect; phenology has a connection with the times of life events such as reproduction and migration. Most of the existing studies are related to phenology. The species in the new study are skewed birds, largely because the birds are relatively easy to observe.
Researchers can put nesting boxes, for example, to allow them to register when adults lay eggs, when chicks are hatched, how big chicks are, and so on. And they can map how this changes as the climate gets warm.
Considering these studies together, the authors of the document Nature Communications found that the 17 species of birds they had studied seemed to be shifting their phenology. "Birds in the Northern Hemisphere show adaptive responses on average, although these adaptive responses are not enough to keep the population in the long run," says lead author Victoria Radchuk of the Leibnitz Institute for Zoological and Wildlife Studies
In other words , birds just can not keep up. Laying their eggs earlier, they encourage their chicks to hatch when there are many insects that feed, which happens when temperatures rise in the spring. But they do not move fast enough.
This is not a phenomenon that is exceptional from climate change caused by man. Life on Earth is so varied because it is so adaptable: temperatures rise or fall and one species can move to a new habitat and evolve to become something different with time. But what we unleashed on this planet is incomparable. "We test something in the order of 1000 times faster temperature change than the observed in paleo times," says Radchuk. "There are limits to these adaptive responses and the lagging becomes too great."
Which now means more than ever, we must aggressively protect habitats to help increase species. "I think the results of this document really add plenty of caution that we should not hope that the species will adapt to the changing climate and changing habitats that we do not need to do anything," said Mark Reynolds, a leading scientist for the program for migratory birds of nature that did not participate in the study.
In fact, this document is a terrible window of what can happen to ecosystems in general. A bird does not live in a vacuum – it is prey and is well-groomed. The ecosystem is incomprehensibly complex, interacting with all creatures, making this dynamics extremely difficult to learn, especially when the Earth's climate changes so quickly.
"This is not an internet network type, it's not a power grid," said Peter Rooparin, a george and paleontology curator at the California Academy of Sciences, who was not involved in this work. "These are systems that have very specific structures and configurations to them. We have bad documentation for this. "
At a very basic level, if insects begin to multiply earlier this year because the planet is warming up, birds have to shift their life cycles. This means that the bird predators too. "A phenological change of a species can have a ripple effect through the system," says Roopnarine.
Another main concern here is the length of the offspring. Species that are quicker to offspring tend to adapt better to changes. That's why bacteria can develop resistance to antibiotics so quickly: they multiply as crazy, and separate bacteria with luck to survive genetics, drugs win and pass these genes together. Something like an elephant, which may not be reproduced until it reaches 20 years in its 50-year life, works in way for a longer period of time and can struggle to adapt to the changes.
What is so worrying in this study is that, compared to other family animals, birds are relatively adaptable in their phenology: they can adjust their migration time, for example. The less mobile creator like a frog has no such luxury. But what these researchers find is that flexibility is no longer sufficient to save.
This story originally appeared on wired.com.