Adapting to Climate Change

Climate change is seemingly everywhere at the minute. The media have picked it up again, as children protest and the UN published its most recent damning findings. I’m thrilled to see people getting involved and taking action, but what is science telling us? A new study shows that climate change may not affect everyone as we first thought.

Despite Trump’s “fake news”, the media’s exaggerating tone to gain more readers, and some people’s wish to forget science, climate change is happening. Variation in global temperature is not new, our planet has lived through numerous time periods of temperature fluctuation. However, the use of fossil fuels, unsustainable food production and convenience living amongst many other aspects cannot have aided our warming Earth. Programmes such as Our Planet, The Blue Planet and Planet Earth (amongst MANY others), have documented the decline in numerous animal species as a result of habitat loss, reduced food sources and ultimately, climate change. It is widely accepted that much more needs to be done to save our ecosystem and all those in it. davidattenborough.png

However, recent research from the University of Southampton suggests that some species may actually be alright because they can evolve. An international team led by Dr Orly Razgour, published their findings on Monday (6th May, 2019). They have hypothesised that the threat of range loss (i.e. the drop in population) for some species as a result of climate change, could have been overestimated. They believe some species are able to adapt/evolve to tolerate the rising the temperatures and arid conditions.

Researchers have developed a new approach which can more accurately determine vulnerability, and aid conservation efforts, meaning that we can focus on the species most at risk. Current vulnerability tests do not account for genetic adaptation/evolution. The research group took genetic material from over 300 bats and compared their DNA. They were able to identify bats that had adapted to thrive in hotter, drier environments and those who survive better in wetter, colder ones. Using the data, they mapped these species against climate models to determine those most at risk.evolutionbats

They found that bats suited to hotter environments lived adjacent to forest cover, where the colder, wetter conditions were. As the landscapes were connected, it means that the bats from the hotter parts can breed with the bats from the colder parts, as global temperatures rise and thus,produce adapted offspring. This research has only been conducted for bats so far, but it is interesting to think about how it could be applied across many animal species. Dr Razgour believes this can help conservation efforts become focused, but also consider the potential for better movement between environments and populations.

This is not to say that conservation efforts do not need to be undertaken or require funding. It is still essential that we help species which cannot help themselves, especially if it is us who have taken land and resources from them. However, research such as this will mean scientists/conservationists can focus on species which require the most help and are at most risk from the effects of climate change. To date, there are 8.7 million animal species on our planet. If we tried to help all of them equally, it would be quite a daunting task. Why don’t we use research like this to focus our efforts and make the greatest impact?

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