Tag Archives: climate
The image of the lone polar bear has become almost ubiquitous in step with growing awareness of climate change. So why hasn’t the scientific community been able to convince the world to act accordingly? (Image Credit: Pixabay, CC0)
During the late 1970s, in the wake of intense scientific research showing that chlorofluorocarbons were leading to the depletion of the ozone layer, the world took action. By 1987, the world had seen the signing of the Montreal Treaty, which practically banned the use of CFCs, imposing significant economic costs on those who signed. Since then, the hole in the Ozone layer has retreated. It’s a powerful example of science identifying a problem, finding a solution, and then presenting both the urgency of both to the public. Scientific communication at its best, surely. So with recent steps backward in environmental conservation law worldwide, despite almost global consensus on the negative impact of well-studied worldwide environmental phenomena, is science communication no longer as effective?
The Indian Pond Heron, one species which could face population declines as a result of climate change (Image Credit: Dr Raju Kasambe CC BY-SA 4.0)
Rapid warming is associated with population decline among terrestrial birds and mammals globally (2018) Spooner et al., Global Change Biology, DOI: 10.1111/gcb.14361
The term climate change is almost ubiquitous these days. Humans tend to concentrate on how the warming of certain parts of the globe will affect them, but the species we share the globe with also experience a myriad of effects at the hands of climate change. These include rising temperatures constricting the ranges of some species and concurrently extending the range of others, who can move into areas that were previously too cold for them.
Whilst the focus of climate change has often been on species range shifts, the effects on species abundances are less well studied. This paper attempts to quantify the effects of climate change on a large number of bird and mammal species, whilst accounting for other factors which could affect species abundances, like rates of land use by humans, species body size, and whether or not the animals are in a protected area.
When I interview ecologists, there are two themes I always end up gravitating towards; how the earth is changing and how to improve scientific communication with the general public. So when my colleague Stephanie Januchowski-Hartley mentioned she’d recently spoken to a global change ecologist who also happened to be a poet, I jumped at the opportunity.
Professor Madhur Anand is the co-author of Climate Change Biology and the author of A New Index for Predicting Catastrophes, a collection of poems which bridge the gap between poetry and science. Along her way to picking up two Canada Research Chairs and the ICCC Female Professional of the Year award, she has worked with theoretical physicists, poets and mathematicians. I spoke to Madhur about interdisciplinarity, using poetry to connect with the general public, and the future of the planet.
Earlier this year I sat down with Professor Paul Hebert, leader of the International Barcode of Life project. We talked at length about this project, which you can read more on here. But what’s the use of documenting life on our planet if we don’t use the information? And how do we maintain hope for species in a world where more seem to be dying out every day?
Last Monday, I wrote about how climate change can facilitate the spread of non-native and invasive species. Today, we look at a species that whilst problematic now, could spread further throughout Norwegian waters as temperatures rise.
The last time we looked at an ocean-dweller in this series, we saw that while some species may not be great for ecosystems, they can provide an obvious benefit to other aspects of the region, in this case the fishing industry. The Pacific oyster (Crassostrea gigas) was also introduced intentionally for cultivation and is now on the verge of becoming a major problem in Norwegian waters.
What are they?
Because of its tolerance of most environments, the Pacific oyster has become the most widely cultivated oyster in the world, and thus one of the most widely distributed alien species in the world. Originating from the North-West Pacific, around Japan, it’s sometimes referred to as the Japanese oyster. There is some confusion regarding its taxonomy, with it also sometimes referred to as the Portuguese oyster, though it’s possible the two are separate species. They are large, jagged oysters, and occur in marine coastal waters.
How did they get here?
The oysters were imported into waters throughout Scandinavia and most of Northern Europe to replace dwindling stocks of native oysters at various points through the 20th century. Naturally, they eventually established wild populations as well, and are now abundant along Norway’s southern coast. Whilst they have taken over coastlines through much of Europe, their dislike of colder waters means that for now, their local populations are largely constrained to the south of Norway. But increases in temperature, which will occur at an accelerated rate in the Arctic and sub-Arctic, mean that the oyster could spread further north in the coming decades.
What do they do?
Much like the Red King Crab, they transform the local ecosystem into a homogenous mass. They can transform substrate from soft bottomed and muddy to filled with rocks and other oysters and mussels, also paving the way for other alien species, and lowering regional biodiversity by outcompeting and displacing local species. Interestingly though, presence of oysters can often improve water quality in the surrounding regions and heighten ecosystem productivity, though the position of the oyster in novel food webs is not particularly well understood. They also have negative effects for local human populations, making certain areas impossible to use for recreation, as they’re extremely sharp.
How do we stop them?
In other countries, attempts to eradicate wold populations by harvesting them have proved futile, and a 2005 study showed the oyster eradication would also cause substantial harm to the local ecosystem. Warming seas will mean the expansion of the oyster’s range, however this is likely to happen very slowly, so by focusing on the ranges edges it may be possible in the future to limit expansion.
For more information on the oyster, we recommend that you read the following articles:
Invasive Alien Species Fact Sheet – Crassostrea gigas by the Online Database of the North European and Baltic Network on Invasive Alien Species
Crassostrea gigas – Cultured Aquatic Species Information Program by the Fisheries and Aquaculture Department of the United Nations