Happy Earth Day!

Happy Earth Day earthlings! Today we celebrate the one and only home we have.  I was asked to show some of my photos at a special event for the day about plant pollinators. I brought my copy of the book on the project I was part of and found myself talking about it because of its pertinence.

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From the CC-Bio book launch, Montréal – February 14, 2014

The Climate Change and Biodiversity in Québec project (CC-Bio) looked at how biodiversity might adapt to a warmer world.  Climatic conditions that used to be found in a given location are expected to be hundreds of kilometers north by the end of the Century. Animal and plants have specific tolerances to temperature and precipitation that dictate their geographic range. If they can tolerate certain conditions, what would happen given expected temperature and precipitation changes?

Species observations together with current climate were used to derive species tolerances within their range, also known as a “bioclimatic niche”. Future climate scenarios were then joined with these calculated tolerances to show where species might be able to grow in the future. This was done for over 800 species of birds, plants, trees, amphibians and reptiles. Overall, the niche is expected to move northward by 44km per decade on average.  Some species are expected to change quicker than others, depending on how wide or narrow their tolerances are. While most species are expected to either increase their range or just shift where they are found, there are 25 species that could lose ground based on climate alone.

What was not looked at was how other ecological factors may influence species on the move: diseases, pests, other migrating species, introduced or invasive species will undoubtedly mediate how much of the projected shift will actually occur. My part was to look at how trees species have altered their distributions in the previous 40 years and how those patterns could be linked to climate change.  I won’t spoil the punch in this post (ha ha!) but there are definite patterns that suggest a northward march here in Québec. Birds have also shifted their winter return earlier to sync up with earlier springtime warmth.

The story as it stands may not seem so grim but there are definite changes coming to Québec’s natural heritage. These numbers are only suggestions of how far species could go.  Land fragmentation from urban areas, agriculture, forestry and mining, among others, affects species dispersal, movement and suitable habitat. Also, northern Quebec will be especially sensitive to warming because of its topography, soil and limited available northward space for species to go. Careful planning will be needed in order to make sure plants and animals have the necessary habitat to survive and weather the storm (pun intended).

 

 

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