Leveraging a Changing Climate: Recent advances in understanding how Species cope with Changing Conditions.

Guest essay by Daniel Bourke


The concept of climate change has become a controversial one. By that it is not meant to be said that the happening of climate change is controversial in and of itself, but that it has become an issue as divisive in its contents as any other such engagement. Our primary objective here is simply to highlight some recent researches which specifically detail how the world’s flora and fauna cope advantageously in spite of, and indeed because of changing environmental conditions. We hope to show here that, far from being bystanders in the face of the forces of nature, these organisms are natural forces in themselves and will certainly move where possible when confronted by change both great and small.

The State of Climate Science

A degree of clarification needs to be attempted before the piece is elaborated. And that is regarding the current state of climate science. This piece has hopefully been written in a way which will allow its information to be valuable to the reader whether or not our current long-term climate models are correct, and indeed allowing for that possibility in its formation. The information then can be considered in a context which also stands alone from the larger climate change debate, and hopefully as valuable data-points in their own right.

The public is generally presented with simplistic models and graphs which, for the most part, paint an entirely one-sided view of the science which underlies climate change. This can be seen as a criticism or as a statement of fact. And although we do not have room enough to detail much in this regard, we will make clear, through some select sources, that not only isn’t the “science settled”, but that the science is not even close to being fully understood. Our data and any conclusions must therefore be understood within this context.

Radical revisions have been and are ideally commonplace within an open scientific community, wholesale reassessment of previous models in the face of new data is a now daily occurrence. Of course change is often equally resisted, this is the case in respect to many aspects of human life, but within a scientific framework, this idea was probably best summed up by Max Planck when he stated, “A new scientific truth does not triumph by convincing opponents and making them see the light, but rather because its opponents eventually die, and a new generation grows up that is familiar with it.”1

We have then two extremes regarding the assimilation of data within the sciences. Those sciences are practiced by humans and are ultimately interpreted by those humans. Subject to the human condition. Although the scientific world often presents itself as somehow immune to such otherwise patently inevitable occurrences, touting the idea of science as being inherently “self-correcting” in its utilization, this is an extremely naïve and misleading notion which breaks down in the face of even cursory examination of the history of data falsification in the sciences toward particular ends.2

Unsettling the Science

This groundwork laid, we will now look at some examples of such reassessments specifically concerning our focus here, the climate sciences. For example, a new study by a University of Michigan paleoclimatologist and two colleagues suggests that, the deep ocean was not an important source of carbon during glacial times, as had previously been assumed. The finding will force researchers to reassess their ideas about the fundamental mechanisms that regulate atmospheric carbon dioxide over long time scales.” “We’re going back to the drawing board. It’s certainly fair to say that we need to have some other working hypotheses at this point,” said U-M paleoclimatologist David Lund, lead author of a paper in the journal Nature Geoscience. A prime example of how new data can overturn so much data which came before. It is this reality which must be born in mind on consideration of any currently held maxims or dogmas in climate science.3

In a report entitled “The earth’s magnetic field impacts climate:”, Peter Riisager, of the Geological Survey of Denmark concludes that “…the climate is an incredibly complex system, and it is unlikely we have a full overview over which factors play a part and how important each is in a given circumstance,”.4 Indeed the complexity of this system is perhaps the greatest cause for concern when weighed against conclusions which are presented as definitive in this field. Those definitive conclusions, some of which are mentioned later on, must be approached anew with such insights as Peter Riisager’s here. Insights which bring assumptions which have come before legitimately into question.

Further recent research highlights the undulating nature of models which are traditionally considered as firmly entrenched. “The standard view of the greenhouse state is that you draw carbon dioxide from the deep Earth interior by a combination of more activity along the mid-ocean ridges — where tectonic plates spread — and massive breakouts of lava called ‘large igneous provinces, “Though both of these would produce more carbon dioxide, it is not clear if these processes alone could sustain the atmospheric carbon dioxide that we find in the fossil record during past greenhouses.”~ Cin-Ty Lee.5

Consider too the insights of Shaima Naisiri, A Texas A&M University geoscientist who comments on what she considers a deeply understudied piece of the climate puzzle. “Only in the past few years have we focused on the physical properties of mid-level clouds. This means that previous climate models are incomplete,”6


It should be made clear, the goal here is not to question or denounce the veracity of all knowledge like the epistemologists and ontologists would attempt, far from it. It is quite plainly the case for instance, that the “physical properties of mid-level clouds” are deeply understudied, as stated above. This is a piece of information which serves to bolster the general theme this piece is exploring. With just a short list of examples it is fair to say that our initial statement on the state of climate science has been borne out. Climate change takes many forms of course. Though the aspect of it which is most widely discussed, at least popularly, is the “global warming” one. The idea of a heating Earth predicated upon an increase in greenhouse gases which trap sunlight, an admittedly simplistic summation but sufficient in this instance. Of course, it is less often detailed how, although there will be those species whom may have trouble adapting to a warming environment, there are likely to be at least as many to whom a warming environment, or an environment in general or ongoing flux would prove a boon rather than a bane. It is this idea which we will attempt to support below.

Behavioural Adaptions


With this foundation in place, it is hoped that the reader may approach the remainder of this work with something of an open mind. Consider that when man is faced with the elements, he alters his behaviours accordingly. His agriculture is dependent upon keen observation of the natural cycles and this also holds true where applicable, within the broader animal and plant kingdoms. Man even constructs his housing in a manner often directly related to immediate environmental conditions7.This is equally the case among other creatures. We of course understand that man cannot predict with absolute certainty taking into account his current understanding of the physics which underpin climate models. However, just as man has altered his behaviours before and during times of great change, so too do those other organisms which equally constitute our biosphere.

clip_image001“An international team led by a CNRS researcher from the Center for Functional and Evolutionary Ecology has shown that little auks the most common seabirds in the Arctic, are adapting their fishing behaviour to warming surface waters in the Greenland Sea”8. And how exactly are these little auks changing their behaviour in response to changing environmental conditions? The report goes on to explain. “Surprisingly, the birds have managed to make up for the warming of surface waters in the Greenland Sea by altering their diet and extending the duration of their foraging trips at sea. They travel further and for longer in order to feed in areas where foraging is more successful. (Photo Credit: David Gremillet/CNRS)

An international research team published the results of a study relevant to our enquiry in the renowned Science journal. The new findings are the result of an international research team from the French National Centre for Scientific Research and the German Helmholtz-Centre for Environmental Research and conclude in this manner. “Wandering albatrosses have altered their foraging due to changes in wind fields in the southern hemisphere during the last decades. Since winds have increased in intensity and moved to the south, the flight speed of albatrosses increased and they spend less time foraging. As a consequence, breeding success has improved and birds have gained 1 kilogram”9This elegant seabird, the largest in the world, has, over the course of the previous two decades, according to this longitudinal study been able to keep up with changing wind conditions by accounting for their fluctuations in their general and specific behaviour.

Justin Touchon, post-doctoral fellow at the Smithsonian Tropical Research Institute, discovered that climate change in Panama may be altering frogs’ course of evolution. “Pantless treefrogs can switch between laying eggs in water or on leaves, so they may weather the changes we are seeing in rainfall better than other species that have lost the ability to lay eggs in water. “Being flexible in where they put their eggs gives them more options and allows them to make decisions in a given habitat that will increase the survival of their offspring.”10

clip_image003Continuing with our examples, we have some very recent research which suggests that rat snakes may benefit from warming nights by being able to stay active for longer periods of time.“Climate change would actually make the environment thermally better for them,” said study leader Patrick Weatherhead of the University of Illinois in a press release. “Texas is already too hot for much of the day so it may cause them to shift to even more nocturnal foraging there and stay active at night for more of the season.”1

Black rat snake, Pantherophis obsoletus (Patrick Coin, Wikimedia Commons)

Beyond these examples we have a slew of others from a live Science Report which is referenced 2 paragraphs below. For the purposes of this piece we are cherry picking examples of beneficial behavioural changes in response to environmental stresses; other kinds of changes may be followed up by any reader who is interested

Firstly, we find that, “Loggerhead sea turtles are laying their eggs about 10 days earlier than they did 15 years ago.” Shifting to a more positive gear we hear that “Some plants are thriving in areas where their growth was limited before, thanks to temperature changes that provide more water, heat and sunlight.” While it is further reported that “Marmots end their hibernations about three weeks earlier now compared to 30 years ago.”

All these points are presented as supportive of ongoing climate change, hence their inclusion here. Some inescapably are, others are more open to interpretation. Regarding those which are supportive, our piece is certainly bolstered further, in this case more so than the others reported here, we are dealing almost exclusively with potentially unrealistic extrapolation. In other words these are facts which may or may not be explained by numerous factors beyond how they are presented in the piece picked up by Live-Science entitled “How Global Warming is changing the Wild Kingdom”12

They are, incidentally, linked directly to global warming in the piece, though some dissenting voices are aired too. Further details of which may be read in the piece as referenced below. Once more we are simply pointing out the uncertain nature of the conclusions made from data within a branch of science which, as has been previously demonstrated is quite young and subject to radical revision in the details of its models, importantly including those which authoritatively predict such things as “No Stopping it Now: Seas to Rise 4 Inches or More this Century”13

Again, we are highlighting the broadly overlooked fact that all climate change is not necessarily detrimental climate change in its effects on the lifestyle, behaviours and physiology of organisms. All warming is most certainly not bad warming. All cooling, is most certainly not bad cooling. There will always be those creatures whose fortunes will change for better just as there are those for whom the opposite will be true. This is the nature of existence of Earth, the nature of the organism’s relationship to the greater natural cycles. Even death at the hands of such change is not some great perturbation, no perversion of so called natural law, but simply a matter of fact.

Morphological and other Adaptions


Behaviour is one thing, and that the requisite behaviour often emerges complementarily with novel morphological features is fascinating in and of itself, but what of these morphological and physiological changes? What does recent research have to say on how plants and animals are changing not just behaviourally, but physically in response to a changing climate?

clip_image004Consider that 3 species of trees in the Amazon have apparently been found to have been around for at least the past 8 million years, “The evidence comes from the fact that some Amazonian tree species have already survived for more than eight million years – showing they’re pretty resilient, and have already lived through the sort of temperatures forecast for 2100.” While some caveats are listed for anyone who wishes them, they are overly-speculative and do not take away from the general point in this authors view. These trees have seemingly adapted to many changes in climate over the last 8 million years and will likely continue that trend into the foreseeable future.14

Amazon trees could survive global warming

Keeping with the Amazon for a moment, Professor Peter Cox of the University of Exeter in England who had previously projected that the Amazon rainforest may die out by around 2050 due to the effects of global warming, has now co-authored another study which concludes something altogether different based on new information. Regarding the finding that “The Amazon rainforest is less vulnerable to die off because of global warming than widely believed because the greenhouse gas carbon dioxide also acts as an airborne fertilizer”, Professor Cox stated that, “I am no longer so worried about a catastrophic die-back due to CO2-induced climate change, CO2 fertilization will beat the negative effect of climate change so that forests will continue to accumulate carbon throughout the 21st century”15

Also reported recently were the results of a study which concluded that “When the heat is on, lizards become smarter – potentially giving them a competitive edge as the world warms.” These results were attained in the following manner. “Joshua Amiel and colleagues at the University of Sydney, Australia, wanted to see if bigger lizards also make better learners, so they incubated nine eggs in cold conditions – 8.5 to 23.5 °C – and 12 in warm conditions – 14.5 to 29.5 °C.

Once hatched, the lizards were put in plastic containers equipped with two hideouts, one blocked off with Plexiglas and the other fully accessible. The researchers, playing predators, scared the lizards by touching their tails with a paintbrush and recorded where the lizards went. After 16 trials, five of the nine cold-incubated lizards still headed for the inaccessible hideout. Just one of the 12 warm-incubated lizards made the same mistake.”16

Although we are dealing with computer models and falsifiable dating methods, and hence these results which contradicted Cox’s former results are by no means full-proof, is this in itself not the point? Crucially, while everything in this piece may or may not in its own right be debatable to some degree, that is itself the point I am most interested in making in relation to climate change as both a popular and scientific concept.

Final thoughts

We are not trying to assert that all creatures at all times will so successfully alter their habits as those described here; or that these creatures on which we do write will continue to be successful in their endeavours, this would be unrealistic. Our goal is to bring a semblance of balance to an issue which is often framed in an overly simplistic and needlessly polarizing manner. The decline of general biodiversity and the umbrella notion of climate change are more and more presented as synonymous, but this is quite plainly not always the case. We have hopefully demonstrated here that the aforementioned synonymy is premature in its assumption

There has been no conscious attempt to convey any sort of moral or political message. Nor commentary on what should or shouldn’t be done regarding the kinds of contentions issues which inevitably arise when writing on biodiversity. This has not been the aim. The idea has been to concisely support the notion that climate change is not inherently disastrous. Negative connotations abound in use of the term, and while there certainly have been disasters in the most practical sense of the word, there are many examples in which the planets species are similarly gaining related advantages over their cohabitants.

Extinction and death are as natural as proliferation and birth. They may be altered to relative extremes at his hand, but man is as much nature as the songbird or the lilac. That man may choose to accommodate or hinder these processes toward ends either philanthropic or perverse is indicative of his unique position as an organism on this Earth and his own capacity to act as one of nature’s more disruptive forces.

While ecological niches are lost in the wake of change, others are gained; life will almost certainly find a way, barring an extinction level event of some kind. This is not a statement meant to be interpreted as a “responsibility cop-out”; this piece has been written divorced from any sort of like insinuations. That has not been my concern. Man after all will do what man will do.


1. http://www.goodreads.com/author/quotes/107032.Max_Planck

2. http://blogs.scientificamerican.com/the-curious-wavefunction/2012/10/02/misconduct-and-not-error-is-the-source-of-most-retracted-papers/, Scientific American, October 2nd, 2012

3. http://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2011/10/111003180440.htm, Science Daily, October 4th 2011

4. http://phys.org/news151003157.html, Physorg, January 12, 2009

5. http://wattsupwiththat.com/2013/02/08/study-plate-tectonics-modulates-volcanic-activity-which-in-turn-modulates-climate-forcings/, WTWT, February 8th, 2013

6. http://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2010/11/101123174338.htm, January 1st, 2011

7. http://www.native-languages.org/houses.htm

8. http://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2012/05/120515093949.html, May 15, 2012

9. http://www.sciencecodex.com/read/largest_bird_alters_its_foraging_due_to_climate_change-84297, January 12, 2012

10. http://newsdesk.si.edu/releases/climate-change-may-alter-amphibian-evolution, Smithsonian, October 24th, 2012

11. http://news.discovery.com/earth/global-warming/climate-change-may-be-coffee-for-ratsnakes-130110.htm, January 10th, 2013

12. http://www.livescience.com/3864-global-warming-changing-wild-kingdom.html, Live Science, Jun 21st, 2005

13. http://www.livescience.com/6911-stopping-seas-rise-4-inches-century.html, march 17th, 2005

14. http://www.tgdaily.com/sustainability-features/68056-amazon-trees-could-survive-global-warming#g3fPWRDKJSYlZDLy.99, December 14 2012

15. http://www.scientificamerican.com/article.cfm?id=amazon-forest-more-resilient-to-climate, Scientific American, February 6, 2013

16. http://www.newscientist.com/article/dn21339-lizards-may-be-made-smarter-by-warming-world.html, January 12, 2012

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June 11, 2013 6:49 pm

Had climate never changed, we’d still be crawling out of the ocean.

David Riser
June 11, 2013 7:07 pm

To go along with your theme is this good news about polar bears.

June 11, 2013 7:24 pm

regarding the Amazon tree species that have been around for 8 million years – new kids on the block!!! If I recall correctly, some of the species found in the Petrified Forest in northern Arizona are still around, and that’s Triassic, about 250 million years back.
Nature has a way of surviving..

June 11, 2013 7:26 pm

It doesn’t matter what the world does- it only matters what happens where you live. If Bejing gets warmer what difference does that make to lizards in Australia.

June 11, 2013 7:46 pm

While I agree with your conclusions that climate change is at most a minor threat to biodiversity, your climate uncertainty pre-amble is too long and you miss the most important point about loss of biodiversity.
While climate change is touted as a major cause of loss of biodiversity in reality any effects are minor in comparison with other forces.
I’ll give a few examples.
Far and away the biggest environmental issue in Australia is introduced feral animals. Yet the same people who advocate reducing consumption of fossil fuels, also object to programs to control these feral animals.
The biggest environmental disaster in modern times is the clearing of SE Asian forests for palm oil plantations much of which goes to biofuels.
Windmills killing bats and birds.
Millions of acres of farmland growing biofuels which could be used for natural habitats.
Large areas of US forest cut down and shipped to England to meet ‘renewable energy targets.
I’d also point out that given the rate of mammalian speciation, every mammalian species that exists today has survived at least one glacial and inter-glacial period and multiple periods of rapid and large climate change such as the Younger Dryas.

June 11, 2013 10:22 pm

Beautiful essay.
Note the emergence (without any corresponding preceding genetic changes) of altricial and precocial phenotypes when the embryo receives the environmental signals.
( Balon)

June 11, 2013 11:03 pm

The biggest environmental disaster in modern times is the clearing of SE Asian forests for palm oil plantations much of which goes to biofuels.

There’s a company that has developed a process of using algae plus sugar water to create myristic acid, one of the high-value components of palm oil. It is in the process of building an industrial-scale plant to produce this substance. This will lower its market price and de-incentivize the expansion of palm oil plantations. See the article here:
http://seekingalpha.com/article/1478971-investors-begin-to-differentiate-solazyme-s-unique-technology (For more articles on the company, type SZYM into the search box there.)
(The same company has also trained its algae to produce margarine from sugar water–margarine that lacks trans-fats. And also to produce cooking oil with a much longer use-time (helpful at MacDonalds).)

June 11, 2013 11:21 pm

This is all great and thanks, but it kind of misses the big picture.
Number 1:
Species come and species go – and quickly. Evolutionary biologist’s posit that the average species exists for about one million years before extinction. Insect lab studies have demonstrated that new species can be selected for in 25 generations, which in house flies is 25 generations at 14 days per = 350 days. Bacteria put this timespan to shame. New species formation is NOT always slow as many mistakenly believe. Assuming that there were 2 million extant species at any particular geologic time following the Cambrian explosion of life, and that the average species does last for 1 million years, we can estimate that 500 myr x 2 million spp = 1,000 million species evolved and went extinct on earth thus far. I am not worried about any 2 degree change in temperature’s effect on the diversity of life. That is just bull$hit.
By all means be stupid and wipe out some species – but “earth” will just make more.
Number 2:
Life changes earth. Earth changes life. We all work together and this is the basis of the Gaia “concept”, which many consider useful but in any case, life is not a passive watcher of climate. Did you think 21% of the atmosphere (oxygen) magically appeared ? Did you think that the megatons of fossil fuel is some artifact from the twilight zone ? Just how much limestone / dolomite / carbonate rocks are there on the planet and where did you think these deposits came from ??? Life makes CO2 and methane trace gasses and sequesters CO2. CO2 is fertilizer, controlled by life, a limiting factor.
Number 3:
Climate is a human construct used to predict the average of weather for a certain period and a certain area of earth. Read that carefully and especially concentrate on the words human construct, area and period. Does all earth have a climate ? Was it the same 3 million years ago ? Yes, lets do a earth-wide 3 million year flood plan, by all means. Climate is what you expect – weather is what you GET !!! You can NOT make specific forecasts of results of chaotic systems – period. Or is your weatherman any more accurate than mine ??

June 11, 2013 11:44 pm

@Bourke. The essay is greatly appreciated as is the reasonable approach to the subject.

Terry Aherne
June 12, 2013 12:19 am

The Collared Dove – Streptopelia decaocto until the 1930’s occurred in the wild, no nearer to the UK than Turkey, and it’s then natural range spread eastwards throughout the middle east. A westward spread of the species resulted in its first recorded breeding in the England in 1955. The British and Irish breeding population is now perhaps more than 350,000 pairs, and it’s range extends well into Scandinavia and over the rest of Europe. A cursory perusal of the sort of bird books many people have on their book-shelves, will identify many species inhabiting massively different climate zones in their distribution, though the Collared Dove demonstrates very clearly, just how rapidly species can adjust to different climate extremes. I take with a massive pinch of salt, any tales of woe regarding the ill effect any supposed changes in climate, will have on the flora and fauna.

June 12, 2013 12:56 am

Reblogged this on Jugraphia Slate.

Larry Kirk
June 12, 2013 3:10 am

With regard to the numerous larger animal species that have survived severe climate changes during both recent glacial and interglacial periods, If we are not careful they will be denied one of the major adaptive behaviours that saved them: migration to warmer or cooler, drier or wetter climates and from failing to improving feeding grounds.
You can see this on a small scale here in Australia when, in times of extended drought, native species such as emus and kangaroos (not to mention mice!) make a natural migration from the marginal interior bushlands, coast-wards, to what are now the lusher farmlands, only to encounter a myriad of entangling barbed wire fences, networks of busy main roads, dogs, and armed human beings intent on protecting their crops and livelihoods.
God help the fauna that tired to head south across Europe, Africa, Siberia, Central Asia, Canada or the USA in response to a 12 degree fall in temperature, or a four or five degree rise! The birds would be OK, but most of the rest would end up as road kill.
The other thing to consider are all those large animal species that did not survive the climatic switchback of the past 450,000 years. Why not?
Well, the jury is out on that one. But there was one species that, having fire to warm itself at night, stone tools to dress and cut skins, and bone needles to stitch clothes, was at a massive advantage when it came to coping with the cold. That species also had sharp eyesight, large, cunning, inventive brains, complex social skills, group organisational skills, group hunting strategies and stone tipped spears, which gave it a massive competitive advantage in dealing with any other species it came up against. And it is likely that that species, us of course, put added pressure on already stressed, migrating animal populations, hunting some of them out completely.
So if things really do get dire, one way or the other, rather than just working to save ourselves next time, we should probably also make our best efforts to save the rest of the animal world, rather than ‘culling’ it as it smashed down our fences and trampled its desperate way through our failing crops, ahead of the ice or drought..

June 12, 2013 5:18 am

BioBob says:
June 11, 2013 at 11:21 pm
Or is your weatherman any more accurate than mine ??
We have a weather guesser. If one simply uses the actual weather from yesterday for today’s forecast, it has been shown repeatedly to be at least as accurate as the weather forecast.
Climate Science on the other hand has solved the problems in weather forecasting. Rather than forecast weather weeks or months into the future, with all the inherent risks of being found wrong, climate science predicts the weather decades into the future. The most typical forecast being so far into the future that the scientists involved will be retired and drawing a pension.

June 12, 2013 5:58 am

Agree completely. The recent discussions at Climate Chapman are laughable as they realte to agriculture. Carbon dioxide significantly increases the yield in rice and soybean, as they C3 crops. In corn, growing longer season crops would greatly increase yield if the planet warmed. The whole idea and premise underlying the “ag will fail” argument at Chapman was hilariously, and sadly, dead wrong.

June 12, 2013 6:28 am

Just like man-made global warming, “evolution” is another sacred-cow idea of our supposedly skeptical, evidence-based, progressed-from-fear-and-superstition society.
Darwin came up with the idea of natural selection leading to the emergence of distinctly new species, and this fit our modern view of the world, so we eagerly embraced it. It fit what we wanted to hear. Especially immediately giving us a scientific rationale for controlling those ne’er-do-wells, vagabonds, and petty thieves who we could now brand as genetically inferior. Before we even recognized DNA as the vehicle for the physiology of each of all the species.
It is fine to get excited abt a very useful, possibly correct idea, but wholly adopting it before evaluating it is not scientific. This article crosses the line into lousy “evolution” expressions, as I often see presented by educated people. Anyone can get away with it because we all believe in evolution, and are uncritical. Anyone questioning the status quo is attacked with ad hominem.
I held my opinion on vaccine-induced autism until I had the time to investigate well for myself, including reading original source material. It was pretty easy to figutre out vaccines don’t cause autism.
I held my opinion on manmade global warming until I could spend some time reviewing studies and critically evaluating the idea. It became clear pretty quickly that it is far from certain that man-made sources of see oh too are warming the planet.
For decades, I believed evolution uncritically. Through biology classes and my own pleasure reading.
Finally, I decided to look at the criticisms of evolution to see how weak or damning the arguments were coming from the creationists.
Frankly, the case is not well-made. The idea of new species emerging by natural selection is very viable, but there are key aspects that simply are not established. For starters, we don’t see genes being added to chromosomes.
Much of what we see, and espouse, confounds genetic drift with the emergence of new species. We often see studies declaring that evolutionary changes are leading to species changes.
Here, an educated post-doc observes phylogenetic expression, and interprets this as evolution caught in the act:
“Justin Touchon, post-doctoral fellow at the Smithsonian Tropical Research Institute, discovered that climate change in Panama may be altering frogs’ course of evolution. “Pantless treefrogs can switch between laying eggs in water or on leaves, so they may weather the changes we are seeing in rainfall better than other species that have lost the ability to lay eggs in water. ‘Being flexible in where they put their eggs gives them more options and allows them to make decisions in a given habitat that will increase the survival of their offspring.’ ”
What will happen is each frog specie will keep mating with its own specie, and the geographic range inhabited will change as time goes by. All frog species will retain their DNA profile: same number of chormosomes, same number of genes, mostly the same gene set with some genetic drift here and there. no emergence of a new specie.
Here again, the idea expressed that changes in environment are certainly leading to “evolution,” the emergence of a new specie, versus plain ol’ genetic drift, and plain ol’ variable phenotypic expression with no underlying change of number of chromosomes, number of genes, order/arrangement of genes, except for some genetic drift here and there.
I am going to have to read abt the emergence of new bacteria species to see if we have actually observed the emergence of new species. This is a far cry from new, never-before-seen, non-interbreeding species of trees, birds, frogs, and flowers evolving before our eyes.
But the bacteria example may simply support intelligent design: with a sentient being in control, new species can be directed to emerge. The theory of evolution says this is ongoing without the sentient overlord guiding things.
“What does recent research have to say on how plants and animals are changing not just behaviourally, but physically in response to a changing climate?”

Kelvin Vaughan
June 12, 2013 7:23 am

We are always hearing about how climate change is affecting the fauna in the UK.
I lived in France where the climate is 2 degrees warmer. The thriving fauna there was exactly the same as in the UK, so how a warming of around 1 degree has made a difference to UK fauna is beyond me.

June 12, 2013 7:47 am

I live next to Edinburgh Zoo. From my back garden I can hear Lions and the Penguin Parade (everyone should see the Penguin Parade…). Neither are from climate zones remotely similar to Edinburgh, yet both species appear to have adapted to survive here.
As a simple man, this suggests to me that species can adapt to different climates…

Gary Hladik
June 12, 2013 8:03 am

Larry Kirk says (June 12, 2013 at 3:10 am): “But there was one species that, having fire to warm itself at night, stone tools to dress and cut skins, and bone needles to stitch clothes, was at a massive advantage when it came to coping with the cold.”
Wow! What species was that??? 🙂

At about 2:00.

James at 48
June 12, 2013 8:18 am

Coping with a steady rise is a lot easier than coping with a snap back to the ice at the end of an interglacial.

June 12, 2013 9:42 am

Since man does not control the climate, the only thing man can do is adapt (or die) as the climate changes. A part of mankind’s survival plan will necessarily involve the development of the animals and plants man needs to survive so that they can also survive the changing climate. As for the rest of the flora and fauna on the planet, they will have to fend for themselves. Which, by the way, they have been doing for millions of years anyway. However, because of the man made Global Warming/Climate Change hoax, man is actually handicapping his ability to survive natural climate change. This handicap is due to the increasing cost of energy that all the “carbon” taxes, subsidies for extremely inefficient “green/renewable” energy production and legislative and bureaucratic restrictions on more efficient energy sources (natural gas, oil, coal and nuclear). In short, if man wants to survive natural climate change, cheap energy will be required.

Steve Lohr
June 12, 2013 10:26 am

Terry Aherne says:
The Collared Dove is a remarkable example of species adaptability. The expansion of the range of this bird in the US is similar to that in Europe. My wife and I are birders and we first observed them in the Western US in about 2007. There was a colony near Alliance Nebraska. By Christmas of 2008, I was very surprised to find one roosting in some Christmas trees that were for sale near our house. It was bitterly cold and I told my wife that bird was not long for this world.
How wrong I was!
As we now have a couple of pairs nesting near our house here in Colorado, it is clear that life truely is resiliant and adaptive. I have no idea what they eat through the winter but I think they are here to stay. I have often thought we should put together a non-endangered species list. It would be long.

June 12, 2013 3:42 pm

Philip Bradley says:
June 11, 2013 at 7:46 pm
While I agree with your conclusions that climate change is at most a minor threat to biodiversity, your climate uncertainty pre-amble is too long and you miss the most important point about loss of biodiversity……………..

Well said Phil. I agree with all your points. Some say that over 99% of all species that have ever lived are now extinct. Extinction is the RULE not the exception. The Dodo was doomed by dogs, pigs, rats, cats, and macaques and not the climate.
I often hear about dangerous climate change. Here is dangerous climate change during our ‘benign’ Holocene at well below the ‘safe’ limit of 350ppm.

Abstract – E. Davis et. al.- September 2006
An Andean ice-core record of a Middle Holocene mega-drought in North Africa and Asia
A large dust peak, dated ~4500 years ago, is contemporaneous with a widespread and prolonged drought that apparently extended from North Africa to eastern China, evidence of which occurs in historical, archeological and paleoclimatic records. This event may have been associated with several centuries of weak Asian/Indian/African monsoons, possibly linked with a protracted cooling in the North Atlantic…..
Abstract – Steven L. Forman et. al. – May 2001
Temporal and spatial patterns of Holocene dune activity on the Great Plains of North America: megadroughts and climate links
Abstract – Hamish McGowan et. al. – 28 November 2012
Evidence of ENSO mega-drought triggered collapse of prehistory Aboriginal society in northwest Australia
…..Here we show that a mid-Holocene ENSO forced collapse of the Australian summer monsoon and ensuing mega-drought spanning approximately 1500 yrs …..
doi: 10.1029/2012GL053916
Abstract – B. Van Geel et. al. – 17 January 2007
Archaeological and palaeoecological indications of an abrupt climate change in The Netherlands, and evidence for climatological teleconnections around 2650 BP
….Evidence for a synchronous climatic change elsewhere in Europe and on other continents around 2650 BP is presented…..
doi: 10.1002/(SICI)1099-1417(199611
Abstract – Martin Jakobsson et. al. – December 2010
Arctic sea ice cover was strongly reduced during most of the early Holocene and there appear to have been periods of ice free summers in the central Arctic Ocean. This has important consequences for our understanding of the recent trend of declining sea ice…..
Abstract – Samuli Helama et. al. – 13 October 2008
Multicentennial megadrought in northern Europe coincided with a global El Niño–Southern Oscillation drought pattern during the Medieval Climate Anomaly
doi: 10.1130/G25329A.1
Abstract – Richard B. Alleya et. al. – May 2005
The 8k event: cause and consequences of a major Holocene abrupt climate change
Abstract – Scott Stine – 16 June 1994
Extreme and persistent drought in California and Patagonia during mediaeval time
California’s Sierra Nevada experienced extremely severe drought conditions for more than two centuries before ad ~ 1112 and for more than 140 years before ad ~ 1350…I also present similar evidence from Patagonia of drought conditions coinciding with at least the first of these dry periods in California….
Abstract – Martin Claussen et. al. – 7 December 2012
Simulation of an abrupt change in Saharan vegetation in the Mid-Holocene
Climate variability during the present interglacial, the Holocene, has been rather smooth in comparison with the last glacial. Nevertheless, there were some rather abrupt climate changes. One of these changes, the desertification of the Saharan and Arabian region some 4–6 thousand years ago,….
doi: 10.1029/1999GL900494
Abstract – T. M. Shanahan – 17 April 2009
Atlantic Forcing of Persistent Drought in West Africa
…We find that intervals of severe drought lasting for periods ranging from decades to centuries are characteristic of the monsoon and are linked to natural variations in Atlantic temperatures. Thus the severe drought of recent decades is not anomalous in the context of the past three millennia,…..
doi: 10.1126/science.1166352
Abstract – Fahu Chen et. al. – December 2001
Abrupt Holocene changes of the Asian monsoon at millennial- and centennial-scales: Evidence from lake sediment document in Minqin Basin, NW China
These rapid climatic changes may be representative of a global climatic change pattern during the Holocene.
doi: 10.1007/BF02901902

June 12, 2013 3:47 pm
June 12, 2013 3:53 pm

Leveraging a Changing Climate: Recent advances in understanding how Vegetation copes with Changing Conditions.

Randall J. Donohue et. al. – 31 May, 2013
CO2 fertilisation has increased maximum foliage cover across the globe’s warm, arid environments
[1] Satellite observations reveal a greening of the globe over recent decades. The role in this greening of the ‘CO2 fertilization’ effect – the enhancement of photosynthesis due to rising CO2 levels – is yet to be established. The direct CO2 effect on vegetation should be most clearly expressed in warm, arid environments where water is the dominant limit to vegetation growth. Using gas exchange theory, we predict that the 14% increase in atmospheric CO2 (1982–2010) led to a 5 to 10% increase in green foliage cover in warm, arid environments. Satellite observations, analysed to remove the effect of variations in rainfall, show that cover across these environments has increased by 11%. Our results confirm that the anticipated CO2 fertilization effect is occurring alongside ongoing anthropogenic perturbations to the carbon cycle and that the fertilisation effect is now a significant land surface process.

May 2013
A Global Assessment of Long-Term Greening and Browning Trends in Pasture Lands Using the GIMMS LAI3g Dataset
Our results suggest that degradation of pasture lands is not a globally widespread phenomenon and, consistent with much of the terrestrial biosphere, there have been widespread increases in pasture productivity over the last 30 years.

10 APR 2013
Analysis of trends in fused AVHRR and MODIS NDVI data for 1982–2006: Indication for a CO2 fertilization effect in global vegetation
…..The effect of climate variations and CO2 fertilization on the land CO2 sink, as manifested in the RVI, is explored with the Carnegie Ames Stanford Assimilation (CASA) model. Climate (temperature and precipitation) and CO2 fertilization each explain approximately 40% of the observed global trend in NDVI for 1982–2006……

Larry Kirk
June 13, 2013 4:20 am

@ Gary Hladik, 8.03am
Love it!

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