As Planet Earth Warms, Plant and Animal Species are on the Move

by Eleazar Wawa, age 15

Planet Earth is warming. Most scientists agree that human activity, like the burning of fossil fuels, contributes to this warming trend. When fossil fuels are widely used, gases, mainly carbon dioxide, get trapped in the atmosphere. Science has known about this trend for decades. And regardless of what side you take in the debates about global warming, climate change is affecting life on Earth.

According to recent data, around 2,000 studied species are moving north away from the equator. These species, both plants and animals, are moving at an average rate of about 15 feet per day, or about a mile per year, which is faster than they were moving as little as ten years ago. They’re also, slowly but surely, moving to higher elevations in mountain regions, an average of about four feet per year.

Most of the species involved in this change are located in the Northern Hemisphere. They don’t necessarily all move at one time, but data shows that over a period of decades various species are moving away from the equator. In most cases these plants and animals are seeking cooler temperatures. Scientists say that the speed is an important issue because it’s faster than they thought it would be.

Old data from a study in 2003 showed that species were heading north at a rate of two feet every year. The same scientists who came up with that data also concluded that the 2000’s were hotter than the late 1990’s. In addition, federal weather data shows that 2005 and 2010 were among the hottest years on record.

Experts say that as the temperatures in the 2000’s got hotter, the studied species moved faster to cooler areas. Scientists who have studied various species in Britain say that the comma butterfly has traveled 135 miles in the past 21 years. Also, another British species, the spider silometopus, has shown significant movement. Said to be one of the faster moving species, this small spider has shifted 200 miles north from its normal living area in the past 25 years, moving at an average speed of eight miles every year.

The scientists involved in this research say most of us fail to acknowledge that global warming is already affecting our planet’s plants and animals. These researchers say that while our mindset is often that we won’t start seeing changes for several generations, the reality is, they are already taking place.

[Source: Associated Press]