Moving away from cities and farms, animals seek cooler climates

A new study, led by the University of Washington, revealed that animals seemed to have migrated from cities and farms, away from human dominance, in search of cooler climates.

Animal movements were more pronounced in some particular regions including northeastern America, South America and other major cities like Sao Paulo. The higher northeastern latitudes also experience a good influx of species, the researchers claim.

"We took into account that many animals aren't just going to be able to head directly to areas with climates that suit them," Joshua Lawler, associate professor of environmental and forestry sciences at the University of Washington, and the lead author of the paper, said.

"Some animals, particularly small mammals and amphibians, are going to have to avoid highways, agricultural development and the like. We also took into consideration major natural barriers such as the Great Lakes in North America and the Amazon River in South America."

Several previously done studies have enabled scientists understand where animals moved according to their suitable climates; but this very study is the first broad-scale study that considers how animals may be affected by climate change and human barriers.

Three species that are most likely to move to the southeaster US are the southern cricket frog, the golden mouse and the ornate chorus frog, the scientists speculate.

Identification of the areas where large numbers of animals are likely to migrate may help scientists guide land use and implement conservation planning.

"Climate change and human land use can interact in complex and region-specific ways to shape the ability of species to persist into the future. This suggests that urban and agriculture lands represent both a conservation challenge and opportunity to help species respond to climate-induced changes in temperature," Julian Olden, an associate professor of aquatic and fishery sciences at the university, and the co-author of the study, explained.

The study is available online in Ecology Letters.

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