Animals and plants flee 0.7°C temperature rise in last century

UPDATE: Highly recommended reading from Donna LaFramboise (h/t to reader Lars P), apparently this researcher has had several rebuttals posted against his previous peer reviewed version of this claim. One rebuttal by a prominent ecologist said:

“the worst paper I have ever read in a major scientific journal.”

So here’s Donna’s take on it:

The Backstory to the ‘Fleeing Species’ Claim

Journalists aren’t telling you that the lead researcher behind the species-are-fleeing-global-warming story has come to questionable conclusions in the past.


I wonder how they excluded all of the other possible factors and settled exclusively on climate change as the culprit. For example below, look at global human population growth from 0AD to the present, and extrapolated to 2050 AD. I converted the flash interactive map from NOVA to an animated gif and added the years.

Global Human Population from 0 AD (300milion) to 2050 AD (9 Billion) Source: NOVA on-line - click for more

How do they know that the plants and animals are just tagging along with human growth and development which has made some tremendous latitude gains? It seems more plausible that plants and animals would react to this more than 0.7°C which is a fraction of normal seasonal variation at any latitude.

From the University of York:

Further, faster, higher: Wildlife responds increasingly rapidly to climate change

New research by scientists in the Department of Biology at the University of York shows that species have responded to climate change up to three times faster than previously appreciated. These results are published in the latest issue of the leading scientific journal Science.

Faster distribution changes. Species have moved towards the poles (further north in the northern hemisphere, to locations where conditions are cooler) at three times the rate previously accepted in the scientific literature, and they have moved to cooler, higher altitudes at twice the rate previously realised.

Analysing data for over 2000 responses by animal and plant species, the research team estimated that, on average, species have moved to higher elevations at 12.2 metres per decade and, more dramatically, to higher latitudes at 17.6 kilometres per decade.

Project leader Chris Thomas, Professor of Conservation Biology at York, said: “These changes are equivalent to animals and plants shifting away from the Equator at around 20 cm per hour, for every hour of the day, for every day of the year. This has been going on for the last 40 years and is set to continue for at least the rest of this century. ”

The link to climate change. This study for the first time showed that species have moved furthest in regions where the climate has warmed the most, unambiguously linking the changes in where species survive to climate warming over the last 40 years.

First author Dr I-Ching Chen, previously a PhD student at York and now a researcher at the Academia Sinica in Taiwan, said: “This research shows that it is global warming that is causing species to move towards the poles and to higher elevations. We have for the first time shown that the amount by which the distributions of species have changed is correlated with the amount the climate has changed in that region.”

Co-author Dr Ralf Ohlemüller, from Durham University, said: “We were able to calculate how far species might have been expected to move so that the temperatures they experience today are the same as the ones they used to experience, before global warming kicked in. Remarkably, species have on average moved towards the poles as rapidly as expected.”

A diversity of changes. These conclusions hold for the average responses of species, but individual species showed much greater variation. Some species have moved much more slowly than expected, others have not moved, and some have even retreated where they are expected to expand. In contrast, other species have raced ahead, perhaps because they are sensitive to a particular component of climate change (rather than to average warming), or because other changes to the environment have also been driving their responses.

Co-author Dr David Roy, from the Centre for Ecology & Hydrology, illustrates this variation among species: “In Britain, the high brown fritillary butterfly might have been expected to expand northwards into Scotland if climate warming was the only thing affecting it, but it has in fact declined because its habitats have been lost. Meanwhile, the comma butterfly has moved 220 kilometres northwards from central England to Edinburgh, in only two decades.”

Similar variation has taken place in other animal groups. Cetti’s warbler, a small brown bird with a loud voice, moved northwards in Britain by 150 kilometres during the same period when the Cirl bunting retreated southward by 120 kilometres, the latter experiencing a major decline associated with the intensification of agriculture.

How they did the research. The researchers brought together all of the known studies of how species have changed their distributions, and analysed them together in a “meta-analysis”. The changes that were studied include species retreating where conditions are getting too hot (at low altitudes and latitudes), species expanding where conditions are no longer too cold (at high altitude and latitudes), and species staying where they are but with numbers declining in hotter parts and increasing in cooler parts of the range.

They considered studies of latitudinal and elevational range shifts from throughout the world, but most of the available data were from Europe and North America.

Birds, mammals, reptiles, insects, spiders, other invertebrates, and plants featured in the evidence. For example, I-Ching Chen and her colleagues discovered that moths had on average moved 67 metres uphill on Mount Kinabalu in Borneo.

Co-author Jane Hill, Professor of Ecology at York, said: “We have taken the published literature and analysed it to detect what the overall pattern of change is, something that is not possible from an individual study. It’s a summary of the state of world knowledge about how the ranges of species are responding to climate change. Our analysis shows that rates of response to climate change are two or three times faster than previously realised.”

Implications. The current research does not explicitly consider the risks posed to species from climate change, but previous studies suggest that climate change represents a serious extinction risk to at least 10 per cent of the world’s species. Professor Thomas says: “Realisation of how fast species are moving because of climate change indicates that many species may indeed be heading rapidly towards extinction, where climatic conditions are deteriorating. On the other hand, other species are moving to new areas where the climate has become suitable; so there will be some winners as well as many losers.”

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Mike Jowsey
August 21, 2011 3:43 am

Three times faster!!???? It’s worse than we thought!

August 21, 2011 3:46 am

I think you mean “How do they know that the plants and animals aren’t just tagging along with human growth and development which has made some tremendous latitude gains?”

John Marshall
August 21, 2011 3:49 am

More stupid research to try to prove a point. A point that has long since been lost to truth.

Rick Bradford
August 21, 2011 3:55 am

> Some species have moved much more slowly than expected, others have not moved, and some have even retreated where they are expected to expand.
More convincing science from the ivory tower of academe.

Mike Jowsey
August 21, 2011 3:56 am

This study for the first time showed that species have moved furthest in regions where the climate has warmed the most, unambiguously linking the changes in where species survive to climate warming over the last 40 years.

Global warming does not equal >b>Anthropogenic GW

Species have moved towards the poles.

Yes, duh!! More peepls, more dispersions….. Ya think Singapore is gonna stop spreading?

On the other hand, other species are moving to new areas where the climate has become suitable; so there will be some winners as well as many losers.

= “Please send more funds”

August 21, 2011 4:13 am

…On the other hand, other species are moving to new areas where the climate has become suitable; so there will be some winners as well as many losers.”
Pure speculation. There may be some losers and many winners. There are more species where it is warm now and fewer in the higher latitudes. That means more species have a chance to “win” as their territory is expanded and there are fewer species occupying the expansion territory, so there are fewer species that would lose. But wait!. New territory will open up for them in higher latitudes so there may not be any losses.
Oh fudge! It’s better than we thought!

spangled drongo
August 21, 2011 4:29 am

I’ll bet if you examined these claims on a case by case basis you could find many other equally or more genuine reasons for their move.
The most likely being loss of habitat through some other incursion.
When fauna daily faces temperature ranges of up to 40c, they would not notice 0.7c occurring over 150 years.
It’s a ludicrous claim.

August 21, 2011 4:32 am

Good comment Anthony. I can think of several factors besides climate change that would account for the movement of people and species. One of them is that humans may have moved North and higher because it was getting crowded South and lower. Another is that the technology in the use of energy made colder climates more survivable. Perhaps humans found more species North and higher because there were more humans there looking.
The book “Guns, Germs, and Steel, by Jared Diamond has some interesting theories on this subject without reference to climate change.
It is possible that the actual study took all the other factors into account and logically dismissed them. The report published here does gives the impression they jumped on climate change without a lot of thought to the alternatives.

spangled drongo
August 21, 2011 4:32 am

I meant to add that in many cases it is most likely only a temporary move for other good reasons.

August 21, 2011 4:33 am

“…moths had on average moved 67 metres uphill on Mount Kinabalu in Borneo.”
Spying on moths as they climb mountains is a heck of a way to make a living.

James Evans
August 21, 2011 4:37 am

“Meanwhile, the comma butterfly has moved 220 kilometres northwards from central England to Edinburgh, in only two decades.”
My goodness, how terrifying.
Let’s see what the good people of Scotland have to say about the Comma butterfly:
“The Comma favours open woodland, woodland edges or hedgerows with large sun-lit patches of nettles. It has shown a dramatic northwards range expansion in Britain, particularly up the east coast. In Scotland, the Comma is now well established in the south east and is increasingly being recorded in the south west. A high density of sightings in the Motherwell area including multiple Commas visiting a garden at the same time, suggest this butterfly may be breeding along the Clyde. The expansion in the Comma’s range and notable increases in its abundance appear to be related to climate warming.
The Comma is known to have a very dynamic range in the UK. It was known in eastern Scotland in the early-19th century being found as far north as Fife and Alloa, Clackmannanshire in the east but it was absent in western Scotland. After 1850, the Comma was in decline with the last 19th century record being for Denholm, the Borders in 1868.
By the 1920s, the Comma’s distribution in England had retreated to the west Midlands and then exapnded again in the 1930s reaching Lancashire & South Yorkshire by 1950 & Durham by 1976. By 1995-1999, the Comma had reached the Scottish borders with a few scattered records in Dumfries & Galloway. Since then, the Comma has spread north and west into Ayrshire, Lanarkshire and the Lothians. The above photos were taken in a Motherwell garden in 2008.”
So the range of the Comma bounces up and down as the climate bounces up and down. The Comma was known in the east of Scotland (where Edinburgh is) in the early 1800s.
The same site gives us an interesting graph so that we can get a sense of perspective about the temperature changes in the region over the last two decades. (Only winter data, unfortunately.)
Graph is about half way down this page:
(Or direct link to graph:)
So, in the case of the Comma butterfly, this is a total non-story. I’m guessing that if I could be bothered to check more than one species, I’d find more than one non-story.
What utterly pathetic “science”.

Bruce Cobb
August 21, 2011 4:38 am

It’s called adaption. Some are better at it than others, and those that can’t go extinct. In general, though, warmer conditions allow flora and fauna to expand their territory, while cooling causes it to shrink. Certainly human activities have had an affect, primarily through habitat loss, but also, due to man’s superior mobility he has been responsible, for good or bad for the spread of some species of flora and fauna.

August 21, 2011 4:42 am

the animals fled because of glabal warming otherwise the authors wouldnt get the grant money. If it was because of natural expansion who cares.

August 21, 2011 4:43 am

What a bunch of Morons.
My 2 year old kid who has not been born yet could not believe this.
The Gold Coast of QLD wil be deserted.
Warm is not good – lets go Cold.

August 21, 2011 4:46 am

They just can’t help themselves can they? Its like an alchoholic sitting in front of a bottle of whisky (old pultenay maybe?) and justifying to themselves why they should drink it!

August 21, 2011 4:49 am

Still, what goes north when it gets warm can just as easily go south when it gets cold.
I’m sure that the authors knew exactly where all of the creatures were situated before they started to “go north” and none moved until the temperature increased; but has it increased?

August 21, 2011 5:01 am

Nothing to see here… Move along.
See Ashworth, 2001… Critters have been running away from people and/or global warming for more than 10,000 years.
Some still have room to run. Some ran out of room and/or time.

Mike Bromley the Kurd
August 21, 2011 5:10 am


deric davidson
August 21, 2011 5:14 am

I’m not sure how all this is proof of mankind being responsible for changing global climate?
Also intuitively one would be very suspicious of a 0.7C temperature increase being the ultimate cause producing these shifts.

August 21, 2011 5:18 am

David Middleton says:
August 21, 2011 at 5:01 am
Nothing to see here… Move along.
Spot on

Peter Dunford
August 21, 2011 5:19 am

You say it was published in a magazine called “Science”? Is that part of the group that publishes The Onion?

August 21, 2011 5:21 am

Doubtless there are many factors besides climate affecting changes in distribution of animals and plants. But if you want to get a government grant to study the distribution of a particular butterfly, bird, or flower, your odds are much increased if you can claim to be studying the effects of ‘climate change’.
It would be interesting to test this observation with essentially the same grant proposals, with and without ‘climate change’ as a keyword in each study’s objectives, and tabulate which are most successful. But I’ll bet it’s correct.
This raises, once again, the question: how can we get government out of the business of funding (and thereby directing) research, and still insure that research can get done?
/Mr Lynn

Peter Dunford
August 21, 2011 5:21 am

Sorry, that was unfair on The Onion.

August 21, 2011 5:23 am

The article states “Meanwhile, the comma butterfly has moved 220 kilometres northwards from central England to Edinburgh, in only two decades.”
Here’s a link to a newspaper article from Thursday 26 February 1931 under the headline “English Butterflies” with some interesting facts about the movements and abundance of the Comma and other butterflies in 1930. One suspects the authors of the paper above were not familiar with it. I include the paragraph relating to the Comma, follow the link for others.
“Not for half a century, apparently, has there been a year when the British Islands have been so void of certain migratory species, whereas certain other resident species have made their appearance to more or less abundance to various parts of the country, far away from their usual haunts. This especially applies to the very remarkable manner in which the Comma butterfly has, during 1930, rapidly extended its range over practically; the whole of the southern half of England in localities where it was previously unknown. This has not been due to the liberation of specimens, but entirely natural causes. Hitherto this butterfly was confined to a few localities to the west and south-west, chiefly the Wye district of Herefordshire. It is only during the last two or three years that a few examples have made their appearance outside its normal limited range, but during the past summer and autumn this butterfly suddenly appeared throughout the southern and midland counties, to certain districts in some abundance.”
There is also Nature article from 1929 that appears to be missing from the list of references that indicates the range of the Comma has changed substantially over the earlier part of the 1900s, presumably due to something other than climate change. The paper starts with the following paragraph, unfortunately the rest remains behind a paywall (can anyone help?).
The Comma Butterfly in England
DR. DAWE’S observation serves to direct attention to a matter that is of considerable interest to students of the Lepidoptera of the British Isles in connexion with the distribution of Polygonia c-album. It is not an isolated one, for in 1928 a single example of the same species was noted in a garden at Twickenham, which is near Chiswick. The two records, however, provide an additional interest in the suggestion they contain that this butterfly may have established itself somewhere in the vicinity. Old records show that at the commencement of the nineteenth century the Comma was, if not actually common, at least widely distributed in England and to be met with in most counties. Its numbers gradually dwindled, however, until, towards the end of the century, it had disappeared from all the southern and eastern counties. By about 1905 it was no longer to be found, with any certainty, outside the area comprised roughly by Monmouthshire, Worcestershire, and Hereford-shire, and seemed still to be rather on the wane. Records of its occurrence during the War years are somewhat scarce, but it was recorded from Eastbourne (1915), Kent (1916—last seen in 1899), Shropshire (abundant, 1917 and 1918), and Cheshire (1918). The Kentish and Eastbourne records are interesting as, taken in conjunction with others given below, they seem to suggest that the butterfly had in fact been maintaining itself somewhere in the south-east corner of England in spite of its apparent absence.

August 21, 2011 5:28 am

I just saw James Evans post above. Well put!
Of all the species they could have emphasised in a press release it appears they chose the worst example possible.

August 21, 2011 5:30 am

Here is what I found about the first species I looked up from the article:
“Cetti’s warbler (pronounced chetty) is a skulking bird and can prove very difficult to see. It usually makes its presence known with loud bursts of song and the first glimpse will probably be of a dark, rather stocky warbler with short wings and a full, rounded tail, diving for cover. It is one of the UK’s most recent colonists, first breeding here in 1973.”
First breeding in the southernmost UK in 1973, and has since expanded its range northward. Therefore climate change has caused this. Facepalm.

John W
August 21, 2011 5:33 am

Where’s Joshua?

Joshua says: “why exactly, doesn’t Anthony run posts that discuss notable trends of change in plant and animal migration that are consistent with significant global warming?
John W says: “any “study” that examines other “studies” and concludes “It’s worse than we thought” and “accelerating” is most likely going to get torn apart here in short order.”

Once again, preconceived conclusions are shown to be less than scientific.

Dave Springer
August 21, 2011 5:47 am

I wonder about the ratio of winners to losers when an interglacial period ends and everything north of Missouri is covered by ice a mile thick?
Is that what these people want? An ice age? Really?

Paul Vaughan
August 21, 2011 5:52 am

It’s well known that species migrate in response to climate change. (e.g. glaciers covering continents.) What’s not well known is how much of any recent migration is due to *natural climate change. In the 90s I wrote some papers on potential impacts on population genetics of species migrating in response to climate change on an increasingly fragmented (due to human land use) landscape. I do recall that most of the literature simply *assumed that current climate change was of anthropogenic origin. Toxic pollution & land use are *legitimate environmental issues, but I would caution fellow conservation biologists as follows: The assumption that all climate change is driven by humans does *not stand up to scrutiny. I also ask: What will be the impact on the environmental movement of surrendering credibility? Paul L. Vaughan, M.Sc.

August 21, 2011 5:53 am

So you mean… For a minuscule 0.7C change, plants and animals are adapting at an astonishing speed? So nothing to worry about from “climate change” then.

August 21, 2011 5:54 am

Smells like GWMG (global Warming Money Grubbing ) to Me , they wouldn`t have got any funding If they`d said as the combination of warmth and it`s follower (CO2} increase the areas in which plant life can thrive and then animal species ranges increased to take advantage of the more benevolent conditions along with the greater forage availible (obviously) .
I wonder if They would have seen the vast areas that opened up to ALL life during the transition from the Younger Dryas cold period to the Holocene Optimum as being a “BAD THING” that needed to be stopped . Mind You I`ve come to suspect that the Carbophobes not only hate the idea of crops , humans and domestic animals thriving but they actually hate the idea of any carbon base life thriving as well .

August 21, 2011 6:01 am

That works if you eliminate the Little Ice age….
….but if you don’t, you have to explain how fast they moved down and south as the snow and ice expanded
“The searches of the melting ice patches have yielded up 2,400-year-old spear throwing tools, a 1,000-year-old ground squirrel snare, and bows and arrows dating back 850 years”
…..a 1000 years ago, they had squirrels that lived under the ice
so they had to set their squirrel traps under the ice to catch them

Curmudgeon Geographer
August 21, 2011 6:09 am

You would think that if these people believed this in fact, we would be seeing USDA climate maps for gardeners be redrawn, and all the plant wholesalers selling new plants sensitive to specific zones in entire new areas “climate change” has opened up. I can tell you, as a gardener, the wholesalers are still using the tried and true old maps as if they were un-affected by “climate change”.
This is the ultimate marker on whether climate change is happening. Are the industries that are sensitive to climates changing their business because of it? In every way, no. Are gardeners in more northern climates being successful at planting climate-sensitive plants from warmer climates? No in a statistically significant rate. Plant a Zone 5B (and warmer) plants in a Zone 4A non-urban heat island region, it will eventually die from the cold if not sheltered.
Fact: If climate were catastrophically changing, we’d see gardening practices changing.
Fact: We aren’t.

kbray in california
August 21, 2011 6:11 am

[[[ JamesonLewis3rd says:
August 21, 2011 at 4:33 am
“…moths had on average moved 67 metres uphill on Mount Kinabalu in Borneo…”… ]]]
Was the wind blowing uphill that day?
Or they could have hitched a ride and flown out of the sleeves of somebody’s wool sweater…
This is nothing worthy, just politics.
Ps: if they are worried, a little DDT will keep those moths in line….

Doug Allen
August 21, 2011 6:38 am

As Darwin pointed out so clearly 150 years ago, all species produce far more progeny than can possibly survive and are therefore always in competition with their own species and others, pushing territorial limits. Unsucessful species become extinct. Besides the competition itself, there are many constraints to successful colonization of new territories. For flora, climate and CO2 supply play an important role at the margins with, for example, the tundra-taiga line or treeline on mountains shifting based on climate conditions. In the case of fauna, it is mainly the food supply which is affected by many variables including the shifting margins cited above. With the cycling of cool and warm periods, many species move toward the poles and to higher elevations and back again if they are successful competitors- nothing new here.
In the case of birds and mammals, and even butterflies, food supply is far more important than temperature, and the recent 100 year + 0.7 C change (like the similar + 0.7C changes of the previous two centuries) is, at most, a very minor forcing. Mankind’s own colonization has been far more important for most species (insectivores being the probable exception) because birds and mammals and butterflies (and all species) are opportunists. Man’s agriculture and gardens, man’s waste and landfills, and man’s handouts and intentioned feeding of wildlife- these have been a major forcer in species colonzation of those new territories that man has first colonized.
This study, like so many, is a superficial example of using knowledge that has been known for decades and longer to spin information in a way so as to attract funding from the “it’s worse than we thought” funding machine- nothing new here!

George Lawson
August 21, 2011 6:44 am

How do they know categorically that these species were not in the area beforehand, and can anyone tell me what new species have arrived in Britain as a result of global warming. Their research must surely have this information if it is to be believed.

John F. Hultquist
August 21, 2011 6:58 am

“Species have moved towards the poles . . .
. . . changes are equivalent to animals and plants shifting away from the Equator . . .”

I wonder? Is anyone riding on the caboose looking back? Can someone determine the trailing edge of the many migrations northward and those areas now devoid of life?

James Evans
August 21, 2011 7:02 am

Curmudgeon Geographer says:
“I can tell you, as a gardener, the wholesalers are still using the tried and true old maps as if they were un-affected by ‘climate change’.”
I am also a gardener. A few years ago, after a series of mild winters, the organisation that I work for started talking about how we would have to begin changing our planting schemes, because of all the scarey climate change that was causing warm winters. Then we had a couple of cold winters (due to climate change – of course.) We lost a lot of “borderline” plants, as most people did. Plus ca change. They no longer talk about having to alter our planting because of climate change.

Dave Worley
August 21, 2011 7:05 am

This is not really a movement but an expansion of range overall. If the tropics are saturated with life, then it stands to reason that the range would expand northward. The city of Houston grew outward tremendously in the 20th century, but that does not mean that the city is in any peril.
Only Debbie Downer could read this report and draw a negative connotation from it.

August 21, 2011 7:08 am

Game and Fish Commissions establish populations of various species into new areas to expand their range all the time. They monitor the progress and work diligently to protect these establishing populations. Since humans have moved much more away from being a hunter/gatherer into agriculture, populations of many species have also taken the opportunities to migrate.

Dave Worley
August 21, 2011 7:09 am

“On the other hand, other species are moving to new areas where the climate has become suitable; so there will be some winners as well as many losers.”
The slanted use of the words some and many in the conclusion goes beyond the science and into advocacy. Pull their certificate.

Eyal Porat
August 21, 2011 7:18 am

Just another case of shooting the arrow first and drawing the target around it.
Pathetic (and wrong altogether).

August 21, 2011 7:26 am

The map is not very accurate. All the population of New Zealand (that’s the two islands at bottom right) appears to be concentrated in part of NZ where few people actually live.
Is this the Club of Rome all over again?

Cassandra King
August 21, 2011 7:35 am

Now who would have thought that a dynamic biosphere would quickly move to the rhythm of natural cyclic climate change? The ebb and flow of animal and plant life moving to habitable areas and away from less habitable areas in perfect timing with an ever changing climate. If you could speed up the progress of life on earth it is a series of heartbeats as regular as a heartbeat. Those who do not adapt and move and evolve stagnate at best and at worst die off.
Well, its revolutionary isnt it? Never before has any human mind been able to comprehend such a concept….Apart from thousands of scientists and naturalists and biologists since the time Darwin and before even. For hundreds of millions of years life has engaged in a dynamic cycle of evolutionary progress that includes habitat relocation as circumstances permit.
The mind boggles doesnt it? That alarmists have become so desperate, so incredibly bottom of the barrel desperate they are reduced to recycling well know and accepted natural patterns and passing them off as proof of their rancid cult religion. What? Do these cultists believe that life enjoys some kind of stasis, that life never changes and never moves and never adapts? This pseudo science mumbo jumbo is thriving as never before as it gorges on billions in research grants handed out by grant bodies that Lysenko would approve of.

August 21, 2011 7:35 am

“interpolation is a method of constructing new data points within the range of a discrete set of known data …” – wikipedia
Did you mean extrapolate?
REPLY: Yup sure did, late night blogging. Thanks – Anthony

August 21, 2011 7:50 am

From all over the Earth, from Siberia, from semi-arid regions around Sahara, from American Southwest — people are telling me that plants are flourishing, that soils are more productive, that harvests are improving, that there is more fish and lobster, etc.
Something is very right.
Isn’t it profoundly ironic that the “green” movement is against the very gas that makes everything greener, healthier, more alive? Gaia is laughing at alarmist swindlers.

August 21, 2011 7:52 am

Surprised to see that no one lives in Alaska, and won’t even in 2050. Per the illustration.
REPLY: The dots represent density, Alaska has quite low density – Anthony

Alan D McIntire
August 21, 2011 7:53 am

” Some species have moved much more slowly than expected, others have not moved, and some have even retreated where they are expected to expand.”
Notice that it didn’t say, “shifted”, it said “expanded”. Species aren’t dieing out closer to the equator, they’re spreading their ranges. That’s a POSITIVE trend, not a NEGATIVE trend.

August 21, 2011 7:59 am

This is really too stupid to actually comment on, so I will.
I thought that I would do a scientific test. If animals and plants have really moved away from the equator at 17.6km per decade, presumably there is now a zone several kilometres wide around the equator devoid of life. If there are any animals still there, then obviously they haven’t moved. However, I don’t live on the equator and wasn’t able to test this directly.
So, for my second empirical test, I have just observed my friend ‘Tigger’ sleeping in the garden. I wanted to see if he would move northwards at 20cm per hour. Eventually, he did move northwards to his food bowl. This is much more than 20cms, so I can confirm that the situation is at least three times worst than the University of York first thought.

August 21, 2011 8:01 am

Here is another one that will fit in with its worse than we thought. Has anyone read any information related to this. I read something about the ice roads and erosion a while back but cannot seem to rind it right now.
Here is the kicker-“Cities and communities also have warned that their ice roads are disappearing and shorelines eroding as the ground beneath homes and public buildings melts away with rising temperatures that are increasing much faster than other regions on the planet”.
Read more:

August 21, 2011 8:08 am

temperature rise in last century. That is right: It´s a story of the last century which ended in 1998. Since 1998 temperatures are dropping and now we are diving into a deep, new and reloaded “Maunder Minimum”:
See graph on page 50. (from UN´s FAO)

Richard S Courtney
August 21, 2011 8:13 am

I do not accept that the paper provides an indication of species migration as response to increasing global temperature. However, here I consider what the findings of this paper indicate on the assumption that the paper does report species migrations in response to rising global temperature. And, using that consideration, the findings of the study provide no information on the likelihood of the expansions or contractions of species’ populations and they say nothing about the likelihood of extinctions.
I explain this as follows.
If the region which is habitable by a species moves then the species moves.
In this case the Northern and Southern limits of each region move northwards. A species will not increase or decline if
(a) the territory to the North of the existing region is as habitable as the existing region
(b) the species can move at the same rate as the region moves.
Project Leader Chris Thomas, Professor of Conservation Biology at York, said:
“These changes are equivalent to animals and plants shifting away from the Equator at around 20 cm per hour, for every hour of the day, for every day of the year. This has been going on for the last 40 years and is set to continue for at least the rest of this century. “
Clearly, these rates of observed movement show the observed species can – and do – move at the same rate as their habitable regions move.
Therefore, a species will not decline unless its Northern temperature limit passes some other limit (e.g. the edge of the habitable region moves from land to sea),
And this cause of decline is only relevant at specific geographical locations.
Furthermore, the northward movement of the limits will only induce extinction of a species when the Southern temperature limit passes some other limit (e.g. the Southern edge of the region moves from land to sea).
Indeed, a species will gain habitable territory – so expand – if the Southern temperature limit passes some other limit (e.g. the Southern edge of the region moves over sea towards land).
But the paper does not report the movement of Northern and Southern temperature limits of each region relative to other limits (e.g. coastlines at the North and South of each species’ territory).
Hence, the findings of the study cannot provide any information on likelihood of the expansions or contractions of any species’ populations, and the findings say nothing about the likelihood of extinctions.
The bottom line is that this paper is fundamentally flawed on its own basis and, therefore, it should have been rejected at peer review.

ferd berple
August 21, 2011 8:19 am

“species have responded to climate change up to three times faster than previously appreciated”
So, you are now saying that the science is not settled? That what the scientists previously though has turned out to be wrong?
Well, my question is this. If what science though previously has now turned out to be wrong according to this new study, who is to say that the next new study 2 years from now won’t say that this study was wrong?
It is looking like the science is not at all settled, that each study says that the previous studies were wrong. As such it seems very likely that the next study will say that this study is wrong.

August 21, 2011 8:20 am

What’s that red bit up in Northern Siberia? Starting in 1927, it seems.
Is the Bolshevik species still alive and well?

Kim Moore
August 21, 2011 8:22 am

“First author Dr. I-Ching Chen…” AKA “Book of Changes” Chen. An appropriate name indeed!

August 21, 2011 8:26 am

“Some species have moved much more slowly than expected, others have not moved, and some have even retreated where they are expected to expand. In contrast, other species have raced ahead, perhaps because they are sensitive to a particular component of climate change (rather than to average warming), or because other changes to the environment have also been driving their responses.
Of course “other changes to the environment” are driving their responses! Environments, like everything else in nature, are constantly changing, and species constantly adapt to these changes. The authors make no attempt – and have no way – to distinguish the effects of climate change from other environmental effects, so their “research” is essentially meaningless.

ferd berple
August 21, 2011 8:29 am

JimBrock says:
August 21, 2011 at 7:52 am
Surprised to see that no one lives in Alaska, and won’t even in 2050. Per the illustration.
Humans require lots of land or lots of energy or both to survive in cold climates. Surprisingly, there is no place on earth that is too hot for humans to survive so long as there is ample water.
This suggests that global warming is not a significant threat to humans. In fact, most of us dream of vacations in places that are much hotter than where we live and work.
Thus climate science needed to invent a threat using sea level rise. This then drove down water front property prices, allowing a great many climate scientists to buy waterfront that they previously could not afford.
Gore, Suzuki, Flannery all have invested in property on or near the ocean. It seems highly unlikely they would have done this if they truly believed there was any significant risk.

Judy F.
August 21, 2011 8:37 am

Curmudgeon Geographer
Aug 21,2011 at 6:09 am
“…we’d see gardening practices changing…”
LOL . Some of us home gardeners use common sense and know what will grow in our area. That’s not to say we won’t experiment with a different plant just to see if we can push the limit. I can plant some things on the south side of my house, that won’t survive just a few feet away. Where I live is rated a USDA zone 5, but because of wind and lack of water, I only trust zone 4 plants. I have learned the hard way.
But then, I don’t live in Chicago. They might be in for a big surprise in a few years.

August 21, 2011 9:01 am

“the science is settled” ! (to the bottom of the bog)

Robert Mapp
August 21, 2011 9:38 am

The urban Fox Is Doing Fine,

Dave Springer
August 21, 2011 9:39 am

“In fact, most of us dream of vacations in places that are much hotter than where we live and work.”
Not me. Not in south central Texas. Not this summer. I dream of vacay in rural upstate New York where I was born & raised. I got to spend January-March there this past winter. My first “real” winter in 35 years. While my buddies who’ve lived there all their lives were complaining about sub-zero temperatures and constant shoveling of snow from their driveways I was awestruck by the beauty of it, enjoyed the exercise from (almost) daily shoveling of snow, and the two german shepherd dogs I took with me had so much fun romping in the snow. The first thing one of them did upon arrival was dive into the snow and make a snow angel. The other found no end of pleasure in sticking her heand and snout deep into the snow to sniff the ground for interesting things then dig down when she found something with a zeal that appeared like someone who thought they’d located a buried chest of gold.
Where I live in Texas winter is my favorite time of year when it’s cool enough to spend time outdoors in the afternoon engaged in some kind of physical exertion without guzzling down water by the gallon to remain hydrated. Usually in the summer I’m either indoors in airconditioning or down near enough to the lake shore so I can wade or dive in often enough to beat the heat. Summer in upstate New York I must confess is a little too cool and rainy for my tastes anymore. But winter – it’s just friggin’ awesome with a beauty that is barely transmitted by art such as this:

August 21, 2011 9:39 am

Pre-Al Gore and Global Warming, such articles (and research) was interesting but benign. Was it “true”? Perhaps yes, perhaps no, but interesting and useful to show a light on a phenomenon, if not explain it. One would read and wonder, and might come away with a bit of new insight. But now everything about the environment, man or atmospheric-related chemistry or physics comes with a social programming implication.
Of course now that research must be policy-related, that research (and articles) is also justification for funding, for putting potatoes on the table of the researcher’s (writer’s) family. It is a shame.
Odd things used to be fun. Now they are just expensive. If not part of the wedge into our personal freedoms.

August 21, 2011 9:42 am

Zooming out from the specific topic, we need only note that the article was written by a biologist to put it in the “read with extreme skepticism” bin. Biology is usually classed as a soft science; after about 20 years of critical reading (before that I was a gullible kid), I place it closer to pseudo-science. Very little of what I’ve read has been rigorous, empirical science (same goes for most of the other ” – ologies”).
Is it any wonder that Biology gets so little respect in the exact sciences, especially with its kiddie-statistics mass extinction doom-mongering? A physicist/stats friend thinks that the self-righteous arrogance of the macro-biologists is over-compensation for their innumeracy – in the dead of night they know they’re not really scientists.

Jeff Alberts
August 21, 2011 9:52 am

deric davidson says:
August 21, 2011 at 5:14 am
I’m not sure how all this is proof of mankind being responsible for changing global climate?
Also intuitively one would be very suspicious of a 0.7C temperature increase being the ultimate cause producing these shifts.

Especially when that shift isn’t global. It’s an [absolutely meaningless] average. Some places have cooled in the last 150 years, some have warmed, some have remained relatively static.

Vince Causey
August 21, 2011 10:12 am

Surely this is a poke in the eye to all those alarmists who claim that “wildlife can’t adapt to AGW, the changes are too rapid, animals take thousands of years to respond, yada, yada, yada.”
Now we can see the opposite is the case. Not only is wildlife able to adapt at a speed the alarmists have told us is impossible, but they seem to be not just moving, but expanding. In other words, they are exploiting the very opportunities we are supposed to be creating.

Steve C
August 21, 2011 10:16 am

Mmm, 12.2 metres per decade. So, everything currently living in the UK should have migrated to the North Pole in let’s see, about 33,700 years or so. See you there, if the next ice age hasn’t sent us all migrating right back to the equator by then.

Roger Knights
August 21, 2011 10:46 am

John de Beer says:
August 21, 2011 at 7:35 am

“interpolation is a method of constructing new data points within the range of a discrete set of known data …” – wikipedia

Did you mean extrapolate?

REPLY: Yup sure did, late night blogging. Thanks – Anthony

I think you were right originally. Extrapolating is projecting beyond the end points of a data set, not within them.

August 21, 2011 11:09 am

Opossums hitch rides from the southern U.S. states to southern Ontario.
There are reports that some species simply find the north magnetic.

Doug Allen
August 21, 2011 11:29 am

I think your characterization of biology as a pseudiscience is way off the mark. The chemists and physicists I know and read praise the genius of observation and interpretation which Darwin and so many others since him have brought to biology. The organizing principal of biology, evolution, is one of the most elegant concepts in all of science and has continued to “pass” every test with the advances in microbiology, paleontology, genetics, etc. Biology, unlike classical physics, but like much of modern physics is based on hypotheses and theories that are not easily tested and replicated by others, especially those with a short time frame. In this way, and because of the complexity of so many interacting feedback loops, some biology is like climate science. It requires genius of observation, appreciation of its complexity and variables, and a modesty of approach which Darwin showcased, and IPCC climate scientists certainly do not. Throughout The Origen of Species, 1859, Darwin acknowledged the insufficient state of knowledge, especially genetics and paleontology, to satisfactorly establish the truth of his theory despite the incredible amount of observation, testing, and logic he cites. Darwin’s chapter VI is called, “Difficulties on Theory.” For an appreciation of Darwin’s genius and his modesty, read Origen of Species. It is well written and a tour de force. It will also disabuse anyone who thinks evolution is “just a theory” or that biology is pseudoscience. Darwin came to his understanding without having an agenda. I fear that climate sceintists with an agenda will never be the good observers, thoughtful interpreters, and modest proposers that Darwin exemplifies.

August 21, 2011 12:32 pm

“species have responded to climate change up to three times faster than previously appreciated”
yeah right…..
…..iguanas falling out of trees in Florida
Didn’t work out so well, did it

August 21, 2011 12:45 pm

August 21, 2011 at 9:42 am
Just because the biological sciences have been co-opted by lefties as a tool to farther their anti-human agenda, is no reason to dismiss these disciplines. If I was not a full blown aspie, and had a little more patience in dealing with the insistent Marxist indoctrination embedded with the curriculum, I would have gotten a degree in fisheries biology, or wildlife management. At least in the US, the schooling is designed to insure that graduates have the proper Marxist indoctrination, and to drive away anyone who will not be indoctrinated.
As far as examples of the biological disciplines being true sciences, read any of the resent papers by Xiaoming Wang and Richard Tedford. Bet start with a search an Dr. Tedford, as Dr. Wang might as well be John Smith.

August 21, 2011 1:12 pm

The 2050 projection seems highly dubious. The usual linear extrapolation without regard to human reality.
Specifically, it adds lots of density to the Rust Belt in North America; to the jungliest part of Equatorial Africa; and the biggest of all in northern India, southern Russia and Kazakhstan.
All three seem wildly unlikely. North America is hitting a plateau and Russia is shrinking. Kazakhstan and the upper Himalayas aren’t going to become more attractive to urbanites or more arable for farmers. Equatorial Africa is not going to acquire competent government, so famine will overcome fertility.

Lars P
August 21, 2011 1:14 pm

Donna Laframboise, has an interesting article regarding the backstory to the fleeing the species claim:

Rational Debate
August 21, 2011 2:13 pm

Being a bit didactic here, but it sure appears that someone needs to inform many ‘climate scientists’ and ‘conservation biologists’ of the meaning, importance, necessity, consideration and use of confounding factors in the persuit of science. Well, ok, not just confounding factors, but also other basics such as falsifiablity, not extending results or conclusions beyond what is actually supported in the data, uncertainty, bias, and so on.
Then we get into the whole issue of reliability of meta analyses in general. For years scienctists looked on any meta analyses results with great skepticism, as well they should. Extremely powerful if done well, but even small errors rapidly propagate and destroy value, resulting in misleading, sometimes grossly misleading, results. But sitting at one’s desk reviewing other folks research is far easier than designing one’s own experiment, collecting empirical data, and in general doing one’s own research. As a result they became awfully popular, and it seems that far too many scientists these days aren’t even aware of the inherent flaw and pitfalls that makes such studies generally of less value than direct research. Without taking almost as much time – or more if they did a poor job of it – as this study’s authors to review every research article that was either selected, rejected, or ought to have been considered but wasn’t, who knows if the analysis is worth anything or is just grossly misleading?
For this particular study, confounding factors include not just human population changes, but land use changes, competing species changes (habitate/space {both decreases and increases}, nesting, food, predators, etc.), disease, etc. Then of course there is the issue of how well all confounding factors were addressed in each and every study included in the meta-analysis.
The write up says that ‘for the last 40 years’ species have moved north “at three times the rate previously accepted in the scientific literature, and they have moved to cooler, higher altitudes at twice the rate previously realised.” As others have already noted, if species in general are able to move far faster than expected, then aren’t they more robust and less likely to face extinctinon? Faster movement = greater adaptability. Plus, I for one would like to know just how rigorously these studies verified that for each included species, we actually had sufficient population studies from 40 years ago to even begin to make these claims. It might also be interesting to see a layout of just what duration is covered for each included species – e.g., are almost all well known for 40 years, or how many compare this ‘worst than we thought’ change in range over only a far smaller timeperiod?
I’d also look at how many of the included studies only looked at species leading edge boundary change on one edge – e.g., northward or upward expansion, while ignoring corresponding changes on the ‘trailing edge?’
I’ll leave off with one other issue. Isn’t one of the base tenets of GW that the higher the latitude the faster the warming, and that arid areas decrease in size? Doesn’t this mean that, in general, far less populated areas open up for a greater number of species to be able to survive in those areas? That a greater total area of the earth’s landmass will become habitable. And that the leading edge of any given species’ range should be moving north/up faster than the trailing edge, resulting in an overall expanded range/area suitable for that species? So, doesn’t this very basic GW tenet therefore tell us that overall more species stand to benefit, will be winners, and fewer will be losers all other things being equal?

A G Foster
August 21, 2011 2:15 pm

Snails aren’t often on the move, but when they are they can do a millimeter per second. That’s for an adult in the rain–not a sitting egg. They might do better to hitch a ride with a distracted bird and get dropped in the water. Good luck, but that beats slithering. I hope they can keep up with climate change. Those on the Pacific coast should do better than the ones in plains–don’t have to move as far or as fast.
So tell us, is a snail in its random wanderings capable of making a mile a year in any particular direction? Do we see any midland snail species going extinct?
The survival of mammoths on Wrangel Island after the end of the last ice age had nothing to do directly with temperature. They eluded human hunters by living in the north. And that’s why most critters are heading north: not following humans but escaping them, with quite a few exceptions, like pigeons and roaches. –AGF

August 21, 2011 2:25 pm

I wonder if they considered the explosion in human population lead to decreasing habitat thus forcing the move.
Even here in Australia the increase in population and the problems that accompany that – traffic, urban sprawl etc have been particularly obvious over my lifetime and especially so in the last twenty years.
The world is a totally different place but I doubt climate change has anything to do with it.

Al Gored
August 21, 2011 2:31 pm

Yes. What else could possibly explain range changes? Other than a long list of things beside the dreaded climate change.
One glaring example in North America is the ‘bird feeder’ effect. Now many bird species range and winter further north because of that. Did AGW cause more people to feed birds?
And how do we explain the species that expanded SOUTH? Like Barred Owls?
But there is at least one very obvious error of the population map. What is that alleged population cluster on the BC-AK coast? Definitely not enough people to create what is shown there then. Indeed before Euros brought smallpox and general disruption, there were more (Native) people living there in 1760 than 1960. This same ‘pretend Native North Americans didn’t exist’ mentality is obvious throughout that early time sequence. This ‘denial’ is still chronic despite all the evidence that it is based on a false and racist myth. As if AGW was the only Big Lie prevailing in modern ‘thinking.’

Jim Steele
August 21, 2011 2:36 pm

Great Britain has suffered several waves where butterflies contracted to southern England. When they recover they have nowhere else to go but north and this has been in accurately blamed on global warming by CD Thomas one of the co-authors. The Comma is just one of the butterflies the warmists have exploited but they all typically have exhibited cycles of expansion and contractions. If the warmist are right that the COmma reflects temperatures then the correct temperature profiles indicate that recent temperatures are just now approaching the mid 1800’s.
The comma (Polygonia c-album (L.)) was once widespread in the south of England. About a century ago it became restricted to the counties of Gloucester, Hereford and Monmouth, but in the last thirty years it has spread again over the south of England, the Midlands and even to the Scottish Border, thus considerably exceeding its earlier range. The white admiral (Limenitis camilla (L.)) also be- came rare and restricted to a fewwoodland areas in the south and in Suffolk. Since i 920 it has again become widespread and common in the south and south Midlands.

A G Foster
August 21, 2011 2:43 pm

Lars P says:
August 21, 2011 at 1:14 pm
Donna Laframboise, has an interesting article regarding the backstory to the fleeing the species claim:
That’s a must read, and short. It puts a period on the argument, and puts “Science” on a par with “National Geographic.” Thanks for the link. –AGF

August 21, 2011 4:57 pm

Yeah, gardening. Here in my part of the uk I have tried different, more tender species that will be able to survive now because of our CAGW warmer, wetter winters and hotter, drier summers. They’ve all died. We’ve been told we can leave our dahlia tubers in the ground over winter if we cover them with mulch. How many have survived the last few winters? Bleedin’ obvious, isn’t it? None. I’m not going to be so lazy this year because I can’t afford to keep replacing them.

Al Gored
August 21, 2011 5:24 pm

AG Foster (August 21, 2011 at 2:43 pm) says:
“That’s a must read, and short.”
Hits the spot alright.
Classic example of the junk pseudoscience called Conservation Biology – which is, in my well informed opinion, WORSE than Consensus Climatology.
I can hardly wait for AGW to die so the world can switch to looking closer at this junk science which is the basis of the whole corrupt ‘species-at-risk listing’ business and the Great Biodiversity Crisis Lie. People who have not beeen paying attention to this fraudulent ‘science’ and the very well organized gang behind it will be very shocked to see how bad it truly is.
One comment on that “must read” article. It notes that Daniel Botkin ripped Thomas’s first paper apart. That tells me it must have been ultra-junk because Botkin has done some atrocious junk imaginable in his first book looking at the journals of Lewis and Clark (Our Natural History) … seriously, absurdly, unbelievably bad stuff producing an estimate of the historic US grizzly bear population that could only have been a deliberate attempt to prop up the Conservation Biology gang’s grizzly bear project – one of the most lucrative and – for them – useful projects of all.
Conservation Biology is based on the revision or denial of history to produce fake baselines to make things looks worse. That is their First Lie.

R. Craigen
August 21, 2011 8:30 pm

“fleeing”, or “spreading”?

August 21, 2011 10:56 pm

“Telltale signs are everywhere — from the unexpected persistence and thickness of pack ice in the waters around Iceland to the southward migration of a warmth-loving creature like the armadillo from the Midwest.”,9171,944914,00.html

August 22, 2011 1:25 am

I love how the BBC are reporting this, yet last week they were reporting how Cuckoos migrating from equatorial Africa are returning to the UK in smaller numbers every year.
“Cuckoos are one of several migrant species declining in Britain.
According to a 2010 survey by the Royal Society for the Protection of Birds (RSPB), of the 10 UK birds which have declined the most since 1995, eight are summer migrants, including the cuckoo, turtle dove, yellow wagtail and nightingale.
Between 1995 and 2010 the UK lost more than 70% of its turtle doves and nearly half of its cuckoos. The RSPB called the declines “unsustainable”.
Maybe the UK climate isn’t to their liking any more seeing the weather has been mostly poor shorter summers and long cold winters over the past five years. Talking of the UK and cold seasons, the Holly berries are going red already on the tree outside, I don’t think I noticed that until mid-September last year and that was early. Not exactly scientific I know but there is form bordering on trend.

Patricia Billingsley
August 22, 2011 8:22 am

While the Arctic is a region where the climate has warmed the most, it is also where the magnetic north pole is moving by some 40 miles per year. could some of the animals, especially birds, be reacting to that as much as to the warm-up? If a bird imprint to magnetic north field when it is born, it would have to move 40 miles to be at the same intensity and direction the next year.

August 22, 2011 9:10 am

That map shows people living in the tallest of the Himalayan mountains by 2050!

August 22, 2011 9:51 am

Doug Allen says:
August 21, 2011 at 11:29 am
DesertYote says:
August 21, 2011 at 12:45 pm
I appreciate the comments, but note that i was careful not to write off the life sciences as complete pseudo-science, and I certainly do not advocate junking the entire discipline. It’s just that I haven’t seen many “thoughtful interpretations & modest proposals” lately; it’s more usually arrogant assertions of the Richard Dawkins variety. I first read On The Origin of Species in high school, and agree that Darwin followed Feynman’s admonition to state all of the possible problems and confounding variables in your theory – would that many more modern biologists adopted a similar humility.
I am also aware that a few biologists have brought some mathematical rigor to their work, but by and large they have been drowned out by the mass-extincters and their pseudo-statistics.
DesertYote, thanks for the tip; I will read some Dr. Tedford if/when I get a spare hour.

Rational Debate
August 22, 2011 4:26 pm

@ Patricia Billingsley says: August 22, 2011 at 8:22 am
Interesting thought, although since the pole is moving towards Siberia, I’d think if some animals shifted as a result it would be a corresponding amount in both latitude and longitude… & offhand, vague recollection is that the shift is to the south east & far more ‘east’ than south? Birds must have a way to compensate for the pole shift, however, since it seems that it has always moved around a bit, and some birds manage to return to the same nesting grounds year after year… but it certainly would make for an interesting study!

August 22, 2011 8:44 pm

R. Craigen says: on August 21, 2011 at 8:30 pm
“fleeing”, or “spreading”?
Indeed, of the 6 species I’ve checked out in detail, all are expanding their range. One, Cetti’s Warbler, has even expanded to warmer climes:

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