Climate change has thrown our fantastically balanced planet into chaos. As forests and oceans, transform and ecosystems go into shock, maybe a million species teeter on the edge of extinction. However, there should be hope for these organisms. Few will change their behaviors in response to soaring global warming; they could, say, reproduce earlier within the year, when it’s cooler. Others could even evolve to cope—maybe by shrinking because smaller frames lose heat more quickly.
For the second, though, scientists have little idea how these adaptations could also be playing out — a new paper, co-authored by more than 60 researchers, goals to bring a measure of clarity. By sifting by way of 10,000 previous research, the researchers discovered that the climatic chaos we’ve sowed might be too intense [Editor’s note: The researchers scanned 10,000 abstracts, but their analysis is based on data from 58 studies]. Some species seem to be adapting, yes. However, they aren’t doing so fast enough. That spells, in a word, doom.
To find out how a species is adjusting to a climate gone mad, you sometimes look at two issues: morphology and phenology. Morphology refers to physiological adjustments, like the aforementioned shrinking effect; phenology has to do with the timing of life occasions such as breeding and migration. The majority of the existing analysis concerns phenology.
The species within the new examine skew avian, mostly because birds are relatively easy to observe. Researchers can arrange nesting boxes, for example, which permit them to log when adults lay eggs, when chicks hatch, etc. And they can map how this is all changing because the climate warms.