From: Roger Greenway, ENN
Published January 26, 2014 09:26 AM

Mice and Moose and climate change

How do animals adjust to a warming climate? Do all animals respond in the same way?

According to a new study by the University of Colorado at Boulder, if you were a shrew snuffling around a North American forest, you would be 27 times less likely to respond to climate change than if you were a moose grazing nearby.

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That is just one of the findings of a new University of Colorado Boulder assessment led by Assistant Professor Christy McCain that looked at more than 1,000 different scientific studies on North American mammal responses to human-caused climate change. The CU-Boulder team eventually selected 140 scientific papers containing population responses from 73 North American mammal species for their analysis.

"If we can determine which mammals are responding to climate change and the ones that are at risk of disappearing, then we can tailor conservation efforts more toward those individual species," said McCain. "Hopefully, this potential loss or decline of our national iconic mammals will spur more people to curb climate impacts by reducing overuse of fossil fuels."

The studies assessed by the team examined seven different responses to climate change by individual mammal species: local extinctions of species known as extirpations, range contractions, range shifts, changes in abundance, seasonal responses, body size and genetic diversity. The researchers used statistical models to uncover whether the responses of the 73 mammals to a changing climate were related to aspects of their physiology and behavior or the location of the study population.

The analysis showed only 52 percent of the mammal species responded as expected to climate change, while 7 percent responded the opposite of expectations and the remaining 41 percent had no detectable response. The two main traits tied to climate change responses in the CU-Boulder study were large mammal body size and restricted times during a 24-hour day when particular mammal species are active, she said.

"This is the first time anyone has identified specific traits that tell us which mammals are responding to climate change and which are not," said McCain of CU-Boulder's ecology and evolutionary biology department.

Wood  mouse photo via Shutterstock.

Read more at University of Colorado.

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