by Brina Jablonski
William E. Bradshaw and Christina M. Holzapfel highlighted the unforeseen effects of climate change in an article posted by sciencemag.org. The two authors made a point of telling their audience how organisms are not directly reacting to the increased amount of heat on planet earth, but instead reacting to the resulting seasonal change due to the rising temperature. They also consistently mentioned examples of how organisms are capable of “phenotypic plasticity”, the ability of organisms to alter themselves in response to a change in environment.
In one of the cases mentioned, caterpillars are maturing earlier because of the earlier spring seasons caused by global warming. This in turn is slowly killing off the European great tits (birds) population because the caterpillars are maturing before the tit chicks are born. This example and others mentioned throughout the article supports the idea of how the primary concern of global warming should be seasonal changes rather than how the climbing temperature directly affects the organisms.
The authors also mention their concern about how northern climates are slowly evolving into southern climates. They believe that over time organisms will acclimate to the fluctuating timing of the seasons and as a result slowly adapt to the growing temperature of planet earth. This change will therefore directly impact the genetics of many organisms and change their biological makeup. However, even with eventual genetic changes, some organisms will not be able to adapt quick enough to keep up with the rapid changes in our climate.
It was predicted that only small organisms with large populations would be able to thrive in today’s modern world. Smaller population sizes and larger animals are expected to see a drop in population size or eventually be substituted by a species of animal that can handle warmer temperatures.
Sad as it is, both Holzapfel and Bradshaw agree that unless action is taken to stop climate change, the long-term effects of earth’s increasing temperature could be permanent and result in the termination of certain species of organisms forever.
Bradshaw, William E., and Christina M. Holzapfel. 2015. Evolutionary Response to Rapid Climate Change. SCIENCE. 312. 1477-478. http://people.westminstercollege.edu/departments/science/The_Natural_World/Lesson_Schedule/ev%20response%20change.PDF