Global warming is real and it is happening at an alarming rate. At its essence, it is a worldwide phenomenon that is causing the planet and its natural resources to continuously change and even disappear. Arctic and northern regions in particular have been affected drastically by global warming, impacting many species and creatures that inhabit those areas, including caribou. The consequences of global warming are both devastating and irrevocable, but this article will provide insight into how the caribou have been affected and what must be done to mitigate the issue.
Caribou are the only wild, large scale hooved mammal in North America, and a key species for many Arctic and northern communities. Caribou depend on the Arctic for their habitat and forage, and are considered a keystone species as their health plays a pivotal role in maintaining the ecology of the Arctic. Unfortunately, the increasing temperature caused by global warming has had a major effect on these creatures. For one thing, global warming has had an effect on food availability for caribou. With the ice and snow melting faster than usual, caribou can’t access the lichens in the colder, harder areas, and the area for foraging has lessened. This has resulted in caribou having to travel farther to find food, which has caused them to become sleep deprived, with less energy that would be necessary to regulate their tolerance of cold temperatures or give birth to calves. This drastically reduces their probability of survival.
Global warming has also impacted the routes of migratory herds. As the climate warms, the traditional migration areas of caribou are being altered. They are having to constantly search for new pathways, due to the melting of snow and the increasing temperature. This increases the energy needs for survival and affects the ability for herds to join and for calves to be born.
It is important to note that global warming isn’t only expressing its effects in North America, but in other Arctic regions as well. In Scandinavia, caribou numbers have decreased considerably due to global warming, resulting in a sharp decline in the population. Another problem is that caribou in specific areas will no longer be able to regularize the changing climate, causing them to become extinct in certain places.
Climate change has also caused an imbalance of predator/prey numbers. Since the number of caribou has dropped in Scandinavia, languages and moose populations have flourished, and now the wolves that feed on caribou are now forced to search for alternate sources of meals.
In terms of what must be done to help the caribou, there are several steps that should be taken in the short and long-term. On a global level, nations need to come together and reduce their greenhouse gas emissions. Furthermore, research and studies must be done in order to gain a better understanding of the caribou’s needs and habitat and to be able to develop appropriate plans to deal with the consequences of global warming in this region. On the micro level, individuals must make an effort to reduce their emissions and conserve resources.
Global warming has had a drastic and noticeable effect on the caribou population and their habitat, making their survival even more difficult with time. We must take the initiative to increase our knowledge on the issue and reduce the emission of greenhouse gases on a global level, in order to reduce the current effects and mitigate the future ones.