Tech and Science

According to a study, many new animals are moving to your city | CBC News

When you look out the window or walk your dog in the year 2100, the animals you see could be very different than the ones you see today, a new study finds.

Many wildlife species are moving due to climate change – meaning Canadian cities could see an influx of feral climate refugees. You might also lose a few familiar animal faces.

Previous studies have already shown that climate change is shifting where animals live and their migration patterns.

But Alessandro Filazzola, main author of the new study As I was out and about on Wednesday, I wondered how these changes would change the makeup of a city’s wildlife. The study was published in PLOS One, a peer-reviewed open access mega-journal.

Filazzola, who was born and raised in Toronto, said the changes could affect the way species are managed and could affect interactions such as pollination and disease transmission – but they could also impact city residents in more personal ways impact.

“What does that mean for…like, your cultural values? Could we imagine situations like the Toronto Blue Jays losing the Blue Jays?”

How the researchers found out

During his time as a postdoctoral fellow at the Center for Urban Environments at the University of Toronto Mississauga, Filazzola decided to address these questions.

Working with colleagues at U of T, Conservation Halton and the Toronto and Region Conservation Authority, he modeled more than 2,000 animal species in 60 Canadian and U.S. cities. They used climate projections for the years 2081 to 2100 in scenarios ranging from a scenario in which we do a good job of containing climate change to worst-case scenarios with continued fossil fuel development.

Blue jay clings to a wire feeder
Researcher Alex Filazzola wondered what cities would look like if species shifted as a result of climate change. “Could we see situations like the Toronto Blue Jays losing the Blue Jays?” he asked. (Jackie Schear/The Trentonian/The Associated Press)

The species’ range is influenced by many other factors, including geography, food sources and predators. Because of this, the researchers couldn’t determine exactly which species would move in and out of which cities, but they were able to figure out some more general patterns.

Which cities will get the most new species – and which species?

Even in the most optimistic scenario, Filazzola said he would be shocked to see major changes.

“And then shock No. 2, I think, was how particularly the region I grew up in is the hardest hit.”

Many Canadian cities were expected to gain the most new species and lose the fewest existing ones compared to most U.S. cities in the study.

Quebec City, Ottawa and Winnipeg are expected to see the number of species they have today double in all climate scenarios, thanks to warmer and wetter conditions that allow the immigration of more cold-sensitive animals such as toads, turtles and ticks.

Other cities set to see large increases include Edmonton, Montreal, Calgary and Toronto.

Cities in the subtropical eastern parts of the United States and coastal California were expected to lose the most species.

Certain species are expected to invade more cities than others – such as turtles, mice, toads, pelicans, winged insects, spiders and scorpions (although not in Canada, as far as the last species is concerned).

While tick species were expected to decline overall in North American cities, they are expected to increase sharply in places like Ontario and Quebec, which is also the case already seen with an increase in the blacklegged tick that transmits Lyme disease.

Filazzola said we could also see more mosquitoes, some of which are known carriers of diseases such as malaria, although he said it was unclear whether the disease would be associated with them.

He added that the Virginia opossum is another species that until recently was rare in Ontario and Quebec, but is now quite common. Opossums are sensitive to cold because they do not hibernate, but because of this they have expanded their range Climate change and urbanization.

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Which animals could we lose?

Some animals will be found in fewer cities, including loons, wild dogs, stick insects and most amphibians except toads, the study found.

And the blue jay that Filazzola first worried about could also be affected – he said it would be less likely to be found in Toronto, although he couldn’t say for sure.

In general, he said, the number of songbird species will remain about the same in most Canadian cities, but the species people see will change.

Filazzola expects that people will feel the loss of these species as their numbers decline.

“I live in a city,” he said, noting that he recently moved to Guelph, Ont.

“All the nature I interact with every day when I walk my dog ​​is the nature that is just a few kilometers from my house. So it will be difficult to see any of that being lost – or at least changed.”

What it means for humans and other living beings

Although there were still changes, the study found that there was less of a shift in scenarios with less intense climate change.

“With our actions,” Filazzola said, “it could be mitigated.”

Colleen Cassady St. Clair, a biology professor at the University of Alberta, called the study “ambitious” in the number of species and cities it covered, as well as how far into the future its predictions extend.

“But we really need studies like this because this future will be upon us before we know it,” she said.

St. Clair co-authored a study last year that found the climate is warming make life in the city more difficult for wildlife, especially in warmer cities with less vegetation, but Edmonton is becoming more hospitable to them.

VIEW | Insect-borne infections are increasing due to climate change:

Insect-borne infections are increasing due to climate change

Insect-borne diseases that infect humans, such as Lyme disease and West Nile virus, are on the rise in Canada. The shorter, less harsh winters due to climate change have allowed these insects to expand their range.

Studies like Filazzola’s would help cities prepare for impacts such as the spread of animal-borne diseases, which are more common in warmer, wetter areas, she said. It could also help them mitigate some of the negative impacts of the changes – and also help them prepare for greater biodiversity.

Jenna Quinn, conservation science manager at Ontario Nature, said the study’s results were interesting, although not surprising. She works for a non-profit conservation group that is creating a reptile and amphibian atlas of Ontario to track the distribution of animals such as snakes and salamanders in the province.

The arrival of new species in a warmer climate can be “an opportunity to learn and build new relationships with nature, and that’s really important.”

But it can also have downsides – new species can be pests that affect our food supply or what we grow in our gardens.

“It is important to understand what this could mean for our native species. Will this lead to illness? Will this lead to competition? Will this lead to predation?”

She added that some species can’t move even as the climate changes: “A salamander that lives on an island – it has nowhere to go.”

The Ontario Reptile and Amphibian Atlas uses citizen scientist observations through apps like iNaturalist to detect invasive or novel species invading an area. Quinn encourages people to contribute.

“Keep telling us what you see because that’s really the key to understanding what’s going on here.”

“This is the information that scientists use to understand where species are and where they are going.”

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