Thursday, 8 September 2016

Interactive map shows where animals will move under climate change

Date: August 29, 2016
Source: University of Washington

Scientists predict that as Earth warms and climate patterns morph in response, animals will be forced to move to survive. That usually means hightailing it to higher latitudes as equatorial areas become too hot and dry.

This movement pattern has happened fluidly and naturally in the past as climates have shifted, but now with human developments such as cities, highways and agriculture, critical animal migrations will be limited in surprising and troubling ways.

The University of Washington and The Nature Conservancy have created an animated map showing where mammals, birds and amphibians are projected to move in the Western Hemisphere in response to climate change. The visualization draws upon flow models from electronic circuit theory, taking inspiration from existing visualizations of wind flow across the U.S.

"This is the best visualization of any of these studies we've done. It's much more compelling than our static maps," said Joshua Lawler, a UW professor in the School of Environmental and Forest Sciences and lead author of the study informing this animated map. "The flow diagram really makes the data much more accessible."

In 2013 Lawler, along with Julian Olden, a UW associate professor of aquatic and fishery sciences, then UW graduate student Aaron Ruesch and Brad McRae of the Conservancy, published a landmark study in Ecology Lettersthat considered the likely movement patterns of nearly 3,000 species under climate change -- determining which areas will be hot spots for animal migration in the coming decades and centuries.

In the U.S., they predict that the Appalachians will likely serve as a highway for species moving north. In the west, mountain ranges and protected areas will also serve as conduits, but many of the higher mountains will also serve as refuges themselves.

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