Are animals behaving differently?

To survive, we all need a suitable temperature, enough water, enough food etc. Global warming is changing all these things, so to cope, animals are adjusting their behaviour [1]. Global warming is happening very fast compared to past changes in climate, meaning some animals are struggling to adjust fast enough [10,12]. How is behaviour changing?

1) MIGRATION – many animals respond to changes in temperature & rainfall by moving (migrating) to where conditions are more suitable [1]. There is a general trend of moving towards the poles [6]. As different species don’t all migrate at the same rate in the same direction, this causes new combinations of species to occur in the same place [1], which can cause problems. For example, snowshoe hares are predicted to move north; lynx mostly eat hares, so if they don’t migrate with the hares, they will have to find alternative food, or die out [1]. Interestingly birds & mammals with larger brains are better at moving to new areas [1].

2) TIMING – with climate change, it is becoming warmer earlier in the Spring [7]. Lots of animals and plants use this temperature change to trigger events in their lifecycle [7]. For example, the timing of ‘blooms’ of phytoplankton (like tiny plants in the ocean) has changed [4]. Phytoplankton are at the bottom of the food chain [3,8]. The problem is that all these different creatures are adjusting their timing at different rates, so are out of sync with each other [3,9]. Puffins are suffering from this, for example. The fish they eat are out of sync with their prey, meaning the fish are small, which in turn means puffins don’t get enough food [3,4].

Whilst behaviour allows some animals to cope with climate change [11], it can also cause cascading negative effects throughout ecosystems because animals responds to changes in different ways [1,9].


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