Global warming | Major changes in sight in the wildlife of North American cities

The ecosystem that humans have become familiar with, including urban birds, insects and other animals, is expected to experience upheaval due to climate change, according to a new study.

“The nature that people interact with is not Banff or a provincial park,” said Alessandro Filazzola, lead author of a paper published Wednesday in the journal PLOS One. “It’s in their backyard. »

“The cities are not moving. If you stand still while the world moves around you, what will happen to all the wildlife you know? »

To answer this question, Filazzola, of the Center for Urban Environments at the University of Toronto, ran a simulation combining eight different climate models with a huge dataset detailing observations of 2019 different species from 60 cities across the world. North America.

This combination allowed him and his colleagues to estimate the frequency of each animal in its current environment, its range of distribution, and how climate changes such as temperature and precipitation might affect its future.

On the one hand, cities with temperate climates like those in Canada could welcome new animals.

By the end of the century, cities like Ottawa and Edmonton could become welcoming to hundreds of new species while losing habitat for around twenty of them.

Quebec City is the champion. Mr. Filazzola’s simulation suggests that the Quebec capital could be home to more than 500 new species.

“When we get these slightly warmer temperatures and changes in precipitation patterns, a lot more species are going to arrive than leave,” he argued.

On the other hand, the animals most likely to benefit are those already widespread. Regional species risk losing out.

“If a species is widespread, like raccoons, the likelihood that climate change will cause them to leave a city is very low. It’s in local species—those that we only see in a few cities—that we see a change.”

And many of these new arrivals are likely insects. Varieties of centipedes, butterflies, spiders and cockroaches are likely to appear in places they have never been before, Mr. Filazzola suggests.

The distribution of songbirds is likely to decline. That of foxes too. But the number of pelicans and several lizard species is likely to increase.

Cities most likely to lose more species than they gain tend to be in the southeastern United States, the study found. The city of Atlanta will suffer the most.

Mr. Filazzola warns that his study’s projections will not necessarily come true. Climate is not the only factor that influences where a species can live.

There are many reasons why a species would or would not live in a city. There might not be any food when she gets there, there might be a predator eating her.

Alessandro Filazzola, lead author of the article

But changes are coming, he says, and not just in the big landscapes we tend to think of when we talk about nature.

“We take for granted what happens in our backyard. But there’s a lot going on there besides a few common species. »

The radical change that could occur has implications for pest control and other services that rely on the environment. And it could change the way we perceive our own habitat.

“Imagine hearing different birds in the morning when you go out for your coffee,” Mr. Filazzola surmised. This is a very important (change). »


Leave a Comment