Skip to main content

Sign up for our newsletter.

Quality journalism. Progressive values. Direct to your inbox.

Species Threatened as Climate Crisis Pushes Mother Nature 'Out of Synch'

In a new study showing that the timing of species' natural events is failing to synchronize, "everything is consistent with the fact it's getting warmer"

Julia Conley

Hummingbirds are among the 88 species included in a new study which shows that the warming of the planet has thrown off the timing of relationships between predators and prey as well as plant-eaters and pollinators. (Photo: Jen Goellnitz/Flickr/cc)

The warming of the Earth over the past several decades is throwing Mother Nature's food chain out of whack and leaving many species struggling to survive, according to new research published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.

The study offers the latest evidence that the climate crisis that human activity has contributed to has had far-reaching effects throughout the planet.

A paper by ecologists at the University of Ottawa examined 88 species on four continents, and more than 50 relationships between predator and pray as well as herbivores and the plants they eat, and found that food chain events are taking place earlier in the year than they have in the past, because of the warming climate.

"Most of the examples were about food," Heather Kharouba, lead author of the paper, told the National Observer. "Is it available or is it not?"

In the study's findings, Kharouba added, "everything is consistent with the fact it's getting warmer...All the changes we see are exactly what we would predict with warmer temperatures and how we would expect biology to respond."

"It demonstrates that many species interactions from around the world are in a state of rapid flux," Boston University biology professor Richard Primack told the Associated Press. "Prior to this study, studies of changing species interactions focused on one place or one group of species."

"Most of the examples were about food. Is it available or is it not?"—Heather Kharouba, University of Ottawa

The scientists looked at research going back to 1951, which showed that in previous decades, birds would migrate, animals would mate and give birth, and plants would bloom later in the year, allowing the animals to find the food they needed at specific times.

These events have been occurring about four days earlier per decade since the 1980s, according to the National Observer. On average, the timing is now off by a full 21 days for the 88 species the researchers examined.

In Washington state's Lake Washington, the very bottom of the food chain has been affected, according to the research, as plant plankton is now blooming 34 days earlier than the organisms that feed on them.

Even smaller changes can have a major impact on animal populations: plants in Greenland are now blossoming just three days earlier than baby caribou are born, throwing off the species that has survived on them and causing more of the animals to starve.

"It leads to a mismatch," Kharouba said. "These events are out of synch."

The "mismatch" could begin contributing to the endangerment of species that are unable to find food they've relied on, the researchers said.


Our work is licensed under Creative Commons (CC BY-NC-ND 3.0). Feel free to republish and share widely.

This is the world we live in. This is the world we cover.

Because of people like you, another world is possible. There are many battles to be won, but we will battle them together—all of us. Common Dreams is not your normal news site. We don't survive on clicks. We don't want advertising dollars. We want the world to be a better place. But we can't do it alone. It doesn't work that way. We need you. If you can help today—because every gift of every size matters—please do. Without Your Support We Simply Don't Exist.

Rapid Shift to Electric Vehicles Could Create Over 150,000 Jobs in US by 2030

A new report says "smart" pro-labor policies by lawmakers would transform the "inevitable" shift to EVs "into a new beginning for U.S. producers and the rebuilding of a foundation for good jobs."

Kenny Stancil ·


'Groundbreaking' Win as Court Rules USFWS Can't Ignore Climate Impacts on Joshua Tree

The ruling represents a step forward "for all climate-imperiled species whose fate relies upon the service following the law," said advocacy group WildEarth Guardians.

Julia Conley ·


WHO's New Air Pollution Guidelines Reflect Deadly Toll of Fossil Fuels

"What matters most is whether governments implement impactful policies to reduce pollutant emissions, such as ending investments in coal, oil, and gas and prioritizing the transition to clean energy," said a Greenpeace scientist.

Jessica Corbett ·


Baby Poop Has Ten Times More Microplastic in It Than Adult Poop: Study

"The future is going to wonder what on earth we thought we were doing with plastic."

Andrea Germanos ·


Letter Urges Progressives to Fight 'Wall Street Democrats' Holding Biden's Agenda Hostage

"The United States does not negotiate with terrorists. It's time for the Congressional Progressive Caucus to extend that principle to the legislative process."

Jake Johnson ·

Support our work.

We are independent, non-profit, advertising-free and 100% reader supported.

Subscribe to our newsletter.

Quality journalism. Progressive values.
Direct to your inbox.

Subscribe to our Newsletter.


Common Dreams, Inc. Founded 1997. Registered 501(c3) Non-Profit | Privacy Policy
Common Dreams Logo