Learning about climate from wildlife

What does studying the atmosphere teach us about the climate?

Humans aren’t the only ones affected by changes in the climate. Plants and animals are too. Habitats change which can change the water and food available, and can affect whether they survive at all.

We are lucky that most of us live in comfortable homes and have enough to eat. Just imagine if we didn’t – what would we do? Maybe we’d move somewhere else, if we could. But what if we couldn’t?

Now, other than our pampered pets, animals don’t live in houses but they do have habitats – places that are safe and comfortable for them to live in with enough sources of food to keep them going. As climates change, these habitats can change too.

Animals – and plant life – are affected by climate change just as much as humans can be. And whilst most species can cope – and adapt – with gradual changes, rapid changes and the loss of natural habitats can create challenges for wildlife.

Let’s find out more from someone who studies a very interesting animal in a very beautiful place…

Rose

Hi I’m Rose and I’m a conservation scientist. I study animals and the food they eat – and that’s something that can change as the climate changes!

Changing climates can affect wildlife in lots of ways. Some animals like frogs and newts are very sensitive to temperature and may die if their homes become much warmer or colder.

A change in climate may affect the vegetation that grows and this might mean there isn’t enough for the animals to eat, or may mean the animals can’t safely nest or build homes. Sometimes the animals might be able to migrate or move to a new habitat, but if not animals can be short of food and may die out.

I work on tropical islands and study the Aldabra Giant Tortoise – carefully looking at what they eat, so we can understand what we call food webs – what’s eating what – or who’s eating who!

But there must be a lot of tortoises to study – how on earth do you figure out what they’ve had for dinner?

It’s the poo that tells us what that the tortoises had to eat! We look at the plant DNA found in the poo and this tells us exactly which plants the tortoises have been eating. Food webs can give us information about the effect of climate change on animal populations and how they are changing too.

So, how has the change in climate affected the tortoises?

Well, the island where these tortoises came from originally is called the Aldabra Atoll – it’s a place in the Indian Ocean that’s at risk of being submerged because of rising sea levels. If this happens, these tortoises could die out. Luckily, some tortoises have been moved, by scientists, to other islands in the Indian Ocean where different types of tortoises have already become extinct. We’re looking at what the tortoises eat in their new homes to see how their presence affects the food web.

Lucky tortoises having you on their side! Thanks Rose!

We share the world with millions of varieties of plants and animals and all of them are affected by changes in the climate. And we might not think they affect us but don’t forget humans are part of a food web too.

Next, we’ll be looking at how what you can do to help reduce the impact we have on our environment.

You can hear Marina Ventura’s Climate Explorers weekdays from 5pm on Fun Kids!

Get the series on your phone or tablet and listen whenever you like – at home or in the car!

…or you can listen here:

Marina Ventura: Kids Guide to Our Planet

The podcast exploring the environment, ecology, oceans and climates on our planet Earth.

 

Marina Ventura’s Climate Explorers with support from the Natural Environment Research Council.

Additional support thanks to Liverpool John Moores University, Manchester Metropolitan University, Met Office, and King’s College London.

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