Animal DNA Changing with Climate, Study Finds
Longer growing seasons have caused genetic changes in a wide range of animals in the past few decades, biologists announced last week.
As the spring reproductive season arrives earlier and lasts longer in northern latitudes, a fact owing to climate change, animals that can adapt their schedules stand a better chance of seeing their genetic information passed on to later generations, leading to a change in gene frequencies within populations.
The shift could have substantial economic impacts as well. As premium growing seasons shift northward, Canada could become an agricultural powerhouse as the United States turns into a dustbowl, the researchers said.
Studies have shown that global warming is acting fastest at the most northern latitudes, resulting in longer growing seasons. The change is also alleviating winter cold stress without imposing summer heat stress.
Animals depend on the day length to decide when to reproduce, hibernate, and migrate, Holzapfel explained. Although the amount of sunlight on a given day remains unchanged from year to year, the temperature on those days is steadily climbing.
Many animals time their migrations and reproductive habits so they arrive in an area at the same time food is most abundant, but some food items sprout in response to warm temperatures and are becoming available earlier in the season. In some cases, animals are showing up as the food source is starting to fade, leading to a decrease in fitness and survival of offspring.
While shrinking glaciers and animals struggling to adapt to a changing global climate might grab all the headlines, pathogens that require a longer growing season could emerge, Holzapfel said. The shift could also have large economic impact, particularly related to agriculture.
"Corn does not currently grow in central or northern Canada because the growing season is not long enough," Bradshaw said. "With increased growing season, the Canadians will be able to grow more corn."
Although the northward shift of the long growing season could be a boon to Canadian farmers, it could also spell disaster for their American counterparts.
"The United States is going to be a dustbowl as the agricultural belt moves north," Holzapfel said. "We are already seeing this in the massive droughts in Africa."
The study is detailed in the June 9 issue of the journal Science.
So could we see:
- US importing fruits and veggies from Canada in the future?
- American environmental refugees streaming northward to the northern States and to Canada in the next 100 years?
- A prolonged boom and bust real estate and land market north and south of the border?
- Instead of oil pipelines, shouldn't we be building desalination plants on our coastlines using reverse osmosis or the newer carbon nano tech membranes which are 10 times more efficient and water pipelines from the coast into the interior. With long lead times, planning needs tro start now, not when we get a prolonged drought.
- Wild Card? a friendly takeover? Climate Wars ? Canada or one of the Provinces becomes the 51 State?
- Droughts, Famine and Colonialism? is there a tie? (see Famines don't just happen)
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