Posted by: Dan | January 22, 2007

Assisting Migration

Or, if you’d prefer, “The climate’s changed and I’m all screwed up!”

Carl Zimmer has a great science article up in the NY Times called A Radical Step to Preserve a Species: Assisted Migration, and of course it just tickles my fancy. The article has it all: biophilia, proactive problem solving, migration, cuddy animals… what’s not to like?

Studies on the Bay checkerspot butterfly suggest that this climate change will push the insect to extinction. The plants it depends on for food will shift their growing seasons, so that when the butterfly eggs hatch, the caterpillars have little to eat. Many other species may face a similar threat, and conservation biologists are beginning to confront the question of how to respond. The solution they prefer would be to halt global warming. But they know they may need to prepare for the worst.

Of course, realistically, this plan is plagued with risk, and Carl notes this. Additionally, nature has faced changing climates before, and while past changes may have resulted in some extinctions, life went on for the biosphere. And the extinction crisis that is well under way has many more serious causes than changing climates. (Hint: think “overpopulation”)

So why the motivation for these conservationists to intervene and assist species impacted by climate change? Well, because they care, and they hope that they can have a positive impact. Or, to quote the article:

Dr. McLachlan and his colleagues argue that assisted migration may indeed turn out to be the only way to save some species. But biologists need to answer many questions before they can do it safely and effectively.

Heck, if they can rescue even one or two species, it’s worth it.


  1. Caverns give up huge fossil haul

    The creatures were found in limestone caves under the Nullabor Plain and date from about 400,000-800,000 years ago.

    The palaeontological “treasure trove” includes 23 kangaroo species, eight of which are entirely new to science.

  2. Hey, you blog about birds, don’t you?

  3. Sure, I blog about birds… not from an ornithological or archaeological perspective, however. ;-)

    But the oddities of the fossil record ARE fascinating, are they not?


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