November 5, 2010

Good News for Polar Bears: Goose Eggs on the Menu

Filed under: Adaptation, Animals, Arctic, Polar

Back in May, we reported on the Trumpeter Swan’s recovery from the edge of extinction that was being made a bit easier by a warming Arctic. Now comes word of another Arctic bird that is benefiting from the warming—and at the same time, helping the polar bear cope with climate change.

This time around it is the snow goose—a rather plentiful denizen of the far north.


September 13, 2010

Coral Bleaching

Filed under: Adaptation, Animals, Plants

Global warming causes coral bleaching – and there is absolutely no doubt about it, right? Tens of thousands of websites found searching for “Global warming and coral bleaching” seem to agree that when the ocean warms, the oxygen content reduces, and the corals become “bleached.” The heat affects the tiny algae which live symbiotically inside the corals and supply them with food. The heat stress damages the algae and in consequence leads to coral death. The argument for the global warming/coral bleaching connection is bolstered by the massive El Niño event in 1997 and 1998 that led to unusually warm tropical waters throughout the world’s lower latitudes and coral bleaching in many locations. But, as with so many other topics covered in World Climate Report, the idea that corals are in peril because of global warming turns out to be considerably more complicated than is commonly presented to the public at large.

Three recent articles give us reason to question the alarmists’ claims that coral reefs are in deep trouble due to the buildup of greenhouse gases.


August 2, 2010

Plant Productivity on the Rise in China (and Birds Love It!)

Filed under: Adaptation, Animals, Plants

We like birds and always have a special place in our essay series for good news about their future. A recent article in Acta Oecologica deals with bird diversity in China and the news could not be better, particularly given the results from three other recent studies from China that find that find that plant productivity—a primary determinent of species richness of China’s birds—is on the rise, quite probabily a result of rising atmospheric carbon dioxide levels.


July 7, 2010

Bird News

Filed under: Adaptation, Animals

We hear over and over that climate change is now so rapid that ecosystems all over the world are in peril as they attempt to cope with changes to the environment. This view of “delicate” ecosystems is at odds with the reality of the long climate history of the Earth. The climate has warmed in the past, cooled in the past, and many of these changes were quite rapid. Delicate ecosystems would have disappeared long ago and the most robust systems would have survived.

Birds are particular well-suited to move as conditions change. Somewhere deep in their DNA is a memory of changes in the past and how to cope with those changes. Four articles have appeared recently reminding us that birds are fully capable of responding to change in climate.


June 3, 2010

Leave it to Beavers

In recognition of the recent discovery of the world’s largest beaver dam, we take a look into the activities of past beavers to see what they may be able to tell us about previous climate changes, and we speculate on the impacts that on-going climate changes may be having on the likes and dislikes of current beavers.

World’s largest beaver dam in found in Northern Alberta, Canada.


May 20, 2010

Another Rare Bird: Trumpeter Swan’s Story

Filed under: Adaptation, Animals

Last week, we reported on a truly rare bird—that is, a story in which “global warming” was linked to something good happening to a “good” species, in that case, the grey whale. This week, we have found another rare bird, literally. We report on a findings which suggest that global warming is benefitting another iconic, beloved species, the Trumpeter swan. Maybe there is a growing trend here.

Since it is apparently acceptable practice for Science magazine to accompany an article extolling the evils of anthropogenic climate change (and the need to take action) with an picture of a polar bear (or two) stranded on an ice floe (even though polar bears were not mentioned in the article), perhaps we’ll accompany all of our articles with a photo of a thriving Trumpeter swan. After all, what’s good the goose (or, er, swan)…

Trumpeter swans thriving in a world of enriched CO2.


April 5, 2010

Bassmasters Rejoice: Higher Temperatures Mean Bigger Fish

Here is the question of the day – who is Kevin VanDam (KVD)? Have a look at the picture below and now think about the question. Come on … admit it to the world – you have watched bass fishing on ESPN stations and you know that KVD is one of the world’s best bass fishermen. KVD has won the Bassmaster Classic three times (2001, 2005, and 2010) and many would argue KVD is simply the greatest bass fishermen who has ever lived. Leading pro bass fishermen are well paid (KVD won $500,000 for the 2010 Bassmaster Classic alone), they are well-sponsored, they have their own TV shows, iPhone apps, and video games, and they endorse countless products in the bassmaster line. Top anglers are superstars in their sport, and if you haven’t heard, pro bass fishing will be the next NASCAR (time will tell). The stuff is on TV all the time, and if you want to see KVD in action (and 1,000s show up for the pro events), there are events all over the USA – get into the sport and follow the women’s tour and junior’s tour as well! If KVD can win millions, why can’t you?

World Champion Kevin VanDam and a couple of live, freshly-caught largemouth bass
(Micropterus salmoides)


February 11, 2009

Audubon’s Bird-brained Conclusion: More Global Warming Misdirection

Filed under: Adaptation, Animals

There is an interesting (of course!) new post up over at taking a closer look at the Audubon Society’s latest pronouncement about birds and climate change. Here it the abstract:

On Tuesday, the National Audubon Society released a report “Birds and Climate Change” which interpreted an average northern shift of the over-wintering range of a large collection of North American bird species over the course of the past 40 years or so. Audubon decided that this range shift was due, in part, to “global warming.” Therefore, it was bad and action must be taken to avert it:

It is the complete picture of widespread movement and the failure of some species to move at all that illustrate the impacts of climate change on birds. They are sending us a powerful signal that we need to 1) take policy action to curb climate change and its impacts, and 2) help wildlife and ecosystems adapt to unavoidable habitat changes, even as we work to curb climate change itself.

What the Audubon Society failed to mention


January 12, 2009

Global Warming’s Rare Bird?

Filed under: Adaptation, Animals

While having coffee and reading through the paper on Sunday morning, I came across an AP article about the recent sighting of a LBB (little brown bird in birder’s parlance) in southern Texas. It turns out that everyone was atwitter that the LBB was actually a pine flycatcher—a species which usually inhabits that high elevation mountains of Mexico and Guatemala much further to the south and which had never before been documented in the United States.

I kept reading waiting for the explantion that was sure to come—that “global warming” was likely responsible for the pine flycatcher’s visit as now the climate of the low Texas scrubland was on its way to becoming a possible suitable habitat. But, as I continued to read about the large numbers of bird watchers who had flocked to the area from miles around who could barely contain their enthusiasm, I soon realized that the requisite “blame it on global warming” content was absent.

Then it dawned on me why…this was a story in which people were happy about seeing a cute animal species farther north than it is usually found!


May 16, 2008

Where Are All The Drowning Polar Bears?

Filed under: Adaptation, Animals, Arctic, Polar

The Interior Department just announced its decision to list the polar bear as “threatened” under the U.S Endangered Species Act (ESA). The justification behind the decision is that polar bears are highly dependent on sea ice in the Arctic for their livelihood—hunting, mating, birthing, family rearing, etc.—and thus if sea ice declines, so will the overall health of the species. While this may, in fact, be true in some sense, it also gives short-shrift to the bears adaptive abilities, which must be large, given that they survived the previous interglacial warm period as well as an extended period of warmer-than-present conditions in the Arctic (which undoubtedly were associated with reduced sea ice levels) about 5,000 to 7,000 years ago (give or take a thousand years) (see here fore example). If the bears fare worse this time around, it will mostly likely be because their natural adaptive response may run up against a human roadblock in the form of habitat disruption or other types of difficulties that an increased human presence may pose to the adapting bears. It seems that this is what the intent of the ESA is aimed at tempering, not trying to alter the climate—precisely how the Act should have be applied, despite all the criticism surrounding the decision.

All this renewed attention to polar bears has piqued our interest in just how the bears have been faring recently. Al Gore made movie stars out of drowning bears in his 2006 film An Inconvenient Truth with an animation sequence depicting a small patch of floating ice disintegrating under a struggling polar bear until it was left swimming alone in a vast expanse of open ocean. One couldn’t help to get a little teary-eyed at the notion.

And as the public just can’t get enough of cute, cuddly, slightly aggressive movie stars who are a little down on their luck, the paparazzi are never too far behind to document their each and every move. Pictures of Paris Hilton partaking in every activity imaginable abound and Britney can’t even pull out of a parking lot without running over a photographer’s foot. So where are all the pictures of drowned and drowning polar bears?


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