How Will Wildernesses Around The World Change With Global Warming

As the planet continues to warm, wildernesses around the world are transforming at an alarming rate. Global warming is linked to environmental degradation, melting glaciers, droughts, floods and extreme weather events, that are putting wild ecosystems at risk and threatening the species that depend on them for survival. In the past century alone, climate change has already caused dramatic shifts in the temperature, precipitation and landcover of numerous wilderness areas globally.

A 2020 study published in Nature Climate Change shows that upward trends in global body temperature play a major role in the impact of global warming on wildernesses. The study found that summer temperature increased most rapidly in warmer climates such as the temperate and subtropical regions. In the warmer parts of the world, this increase was linked to an increase in the amount of space covered by tree canopy, which reduced available space for other species and limited their ability to adapt to the changing environment.

In contrast, in cooler climates, such as the polar regions, low temperatures became even colder, lengthening winter months and shortening summer months. This caused a decrease in the number of days appropriate for spawning and the growth of various species, further compounding the effects of global warming. In addition to changes in temperature, global warming has been linked to an increase in precipitation levels, which can lead to soil erosion, nutrient loss, and flooding.

Many species require specific climatic conditions to survive and thrive, and any changes to these conditions can lead to extinction. As wilderness areas become ever-more impacted by global warming, species that are unable to adapt quickly enough to the new conditions often struggle for survival. Species such as polar bears and musk oxen have already been devastated, and those at risk include caribou, bison, brown bears, wolves and elk, as well as trees such as the Douglas fir and redwood.

Our efforts to combat global warming and to protect wildernesses must also consider the human factor. By 2050, researchers estimate that up to one-fourth of the world’s population could live in an area with extremely high temperatures and insufficient water resources. Such changes could further exacerbate existing conflict between humans and species competing for finite resources. In Sudan, a warming climate has already caused desertification which has led to conflict over grazing lands and water resources. If we do not address global warming effectively, it is possible that other wildernesses and species could find themselves at risk of similar resource conflicts in the future.

Despite the challenges posed, global warming has also provided opportunities for some species to thrive. Warmer temperatures in colder climates have enabled species such as the spruce bark beetle to expand their range, displacing traditional tree species and stressing other species. And some climate-sensitive species, such as the elk, have adapted to the changing temperatures by moving further northward, seeking higher altitudes and cooler climates.

Various organizations and scientists are pursuing solutions that address global warming and the complex multifaceted implications for wildernesses. Around the world, individuals and governments are seeking to mitigate climate change through the use of renewable energy sources and sustainability initiatives. By reinforcing and informing public policy, and collaborating on cross-sector solutions, it is hoped that we can slow or even halt the rapid changes underway in wildernesses before it is too late.

Global warming is already impacting wildernesses globally, but if we act quickly, it is possible to protect the last wild places on Earth and the species that rely on them for survival. It is vital that we recognize the interconnection between human activities and the health of wildernesses, and take action to ensure that these extraordinary places remain wild, vibrant and healthy for generations to come.

Ernestine Warren is a passionate environmentalist, author, and advocate for the protection of the Earth's precious resources. She has written extensively on the causes and effects of global warming, providing accurate information to help educate people on how to combat this major global problem. With a background in science and biology, Ernestine has the tools to help develop solutions that meet everyone's needs while minimizing environmental damage. Her hope is that each person can do their part for the planet and make a real difference to help reduce climate change.

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