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DNR draft: Climate change in Georgia could lead to wildlife turmoil, extinctions

The good thing is that, at least in draft form, no one is denying what’s happening. From David Pendered and the Saporta Report:

The Georgia Department of Natural Resources is predicting in a draft report that climate change will eliminate habitat in Georgia for some species by 2050, even as man-made “sprawl zones” create tremendous challenges for other critters and plants.

You can peruse the document by clicking here. Researchers say wildlife on Georgia’s coast is likely to suffer the most turmoil:

While climate change will undoubtedly affect habitats throughout Georgia, the impacts will likely be most obvious and significant in this ecoregion. Conservation plans in this region must acknowledge the need to protect coastal uplands as well as wetlands, and provide opportunities for migration of habitats and species as sea levels and coastlines change.

Restoration of more natural hydrology in alluvial rivers that feed the coastal sand-sharing system may help mitigate the impacts of coastline changes. In addition, development plans must include setbacks and buffers to provide protection for both wildlife and humans as sea levels and storm surge levels rise in the coming decades.

And songbirds could take a hit:

A warming climate will likely cause the ranges of many species to shift northward, possibly leading to negative interactions with other species or less favorable environmental conditions that affect reproduction and survival. Some species will likely lose a significant amount of habitat because there are spatial and temporal impediments to habitat migration. This may result in dramatic population declines, extirpations, or even extinctions of species.

Climate change can also cause trophic asynchrony when many species of migratory songbirds have been documented returning to their breeding grounds and nesting earlier in the season as the climate continues to warm. The timing of peak bird nesting, and the flush of insects that feed their young, could become asynchronous, leading to lower productivity rates. Trophic asynchrony is likely much more of a problem in the Arctic, where climate change has been occurring more rapidly than in temperate regions.

This would potentially influence several arctic nesting shorebirds, including high priority species in Georgia such as red knot and whimbrel. Arctic warming may influence breeding habitat, prey availability, quality, and timing, and potentially shift or alter other ecological interactions.

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About the Author

Jim Galloway is a three-decade veteran of The Atlanta Journal-Constitution who writes the Political Insider blog and column.