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Old 03-01-2003, 07:33 AM
Daniel B. Wheeler
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Default (LONG) Warning on global warming

From The Oregonian, Jan. 2, 2003, p A1

Warning on global warming
2 studies show the clearest picture yet of how plants, animals are
being driven into accelerated changes

By ANDREW C. REVKIN, New York Times News Service
Global warming is forcing species around the world, from California
starfish to Alpine herbs, to move into new ranges or alter habits in
ways that could disrupt ecosystems, two groups of researchers say.
The two new studies, by researchers at the University of Texas,
Wesleyan, Stanford and elsewhere, are reported in today's issue of the
journal Nature. Experts not associated with the studies said they
provided the clearest portrait yet of a biological world driven into
accelerating flux by warming caused at least in part by human
Plants and animals always have had to adjust to shifting climates.
But climate is changing faster now than in recent millenniums, and
many scientists attribute the pace to rising concentrations of
heat-trapping greenhouse gases.
In some cases, species' ranges have shifted 60 miles or more in
recent decades, mainly toward the poles, according to the new
analyses. In others, the timing of egg laying, migrations and the like
has shifted weeks earlier in the year, potentially throwing species
out of sync with needed sources of food.
Richard P. Alley, an expert on past climate shifts who teaches at
Pennsylvania State University, said climate has changed more abruptly
a few times since the last ice age, and nature has shifted in
response. But, he noted, "The pre-industrial migrations were made
without having to worry about cornfields, parking lots and
Citing the new work and studies of past climate shifts, he said a
significant problem looms: Animals and plants that rely on one another
are likely to migrate at different rates. Referring to affected
species, Alley said, "You'll have to change what you eat, or rely on
fewer things to eat, or travel farther to eat, all of which have
The results in coming decades could be substantial ecological
disruption, losses of wildlife and extinction of some species, the two
studies said.
The level of certainty in the new studies is far higher than it was
in the past decade, when many of the same researchers contributed to
reports on biological impacts of warming published by the
Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, the top international
research group on the issue.
The authors of one of the new Nature papers, Camille Parmesan, a
biologist at the University of Texas, and Gary Yohe, an economist at
Wesleyan University, calculated that many ecological changes measured
in recent decades had a 95 percent chance of being the result of
climate warming and not another factor.
"You're seeing the impact of climate on natural systems now," Yohe
said. "It's really important to take that seriously."
Some butterflies have shifted northward in Europe by 30 to 60 miles
or more, with the changes closely matching changes in average
warm-season temperatures, Parmesan said. The researchers were able to
rule out other factors - habitat destruction, for example - as causes
of the changes.
In many instances, a central bit of evidence pointing to climate
change as the cause were measurements of advances by species in parts
of their range where a cool climate previously restricted them and
simultaneous retreats in places where an increasingly hot climate now
restricted them. When these advances and retreats are concurrent, they
provide proof that climate is driving the species' change.
Around California's Monterey Bay, warmer waters have caused many
invertebrates to shift northward, driving some species out of the bay
and allowing others to move in from the south.
Authors of both new papers said they were concerned that such
significant ecological changes had been detected even though global
temperatures had risen only about one degree in the past century.
They noted that projections of global warming by 2100 range from 2.5
to 10 degrees, should concentrations of carbon dioxide and other
heat-trapping gases continue to rise. The gases flow mainly from
smokestacks and tailpipes.
By comparison, the world took 18,000 years to climb out of the depths
of the last ice age and warm about 5 degrees to 9 degrees to current

Posted as a courtesy by
Daniel B. Wheeler

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