Climate warming is altering animals’ gut microbes — and affecting their ability to survive and thrive


It seems like each day scientists report more dire consequences of climate change on animals and plants worldwide. Birds that migrate later in the year can’t find enough food. Plants flower before their insect pollinators hatch. Prey species have less stamina to escape predators. In short, climatic shifts that affect one organism are likely to trigger ripple effects that can disturb the structure and functioning of entire ecosystems.

Habitat Disruption

The key impact of global warming on wildlife is habitat disruption, in which ecosystems—places where animals have spent millions of years adapting—rapidly transform in response to climate change, reducing their ability to fulfill the species’ needs. Habitat disruptions are often due to changes in temperature and water availability, which affect the native vegetation and the animals that feed on it.

Effects on Animals Affect People Too

As wildlife species struggle and go their separate ways, humans can also feel the impact. A World Wildlife Fund study found that a northern exodus from the United States to Canada by some types of warblers led to a spread of mountain pine beetles that destroy valuable balsam fir trees. Similarly, a northward migration of caterpillars in the Netherlands has eroded some forests there.

The Green Factor