Thursday, April 28, 2005

Flight of the butterfly

Some of the most interesting evidence for global warming involves animals doing unusual things because of the change in their environment. Texas biologist Camille Parmesan has done some work on this:

Her study found that the butterfly had abandoned habitats in Mexico and southern California and was moving farther north and to higher altitudes.

That led to other climate change studies, culminating in the 2003 paper published in Nature that showed climate change is altering how and where hundreds of species of plants and animals across the globe are living.

She and co-author Gary Yohe, an economist at Wesleyan University, analyzed data from studies of almost 1,700 species around the world.

They found that more than 50 percent of wild species have been affected by climate change. Habitats have moved farther north and to higher elevations. Some species were breeding earlier and plants were blooming earlier.

“That’s a huge number, to think that half the wild species are showing a response to 20th century climate change is just a much bigger number that I think any biologist expected,” Parmesan says.

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