Smaller mammals adapting better to climate change than bigger counterparts

A new research has shed light on the differences in mammal responses to climate change.

Washington: A new research has shed light on the differences in mammal responses to climate change.

Assessment led by Assistant Professor Christy McCain looked at more than 1,000 different scientific studies on North American mammal responses to human-caused climate change.
The University of Colorado Boulder team eventually selected 140 scientific papers containing population responses from 73 North American mammal species for their analysis.

The studies assessed by the team examined seven different responses to climate change by individual mammal species: local extinctions of species known as extirpations, range contractions, range shifts, changes in abundance, seasonal responses, body size and genetic diversity.

The researchers used statistical models to uncover whether the responses of the 73 mammals to a changing climate were related to aspects of their physiology and behavior or the location of the study population.
She said that animals like foxes, elk, reindeer and bighorn sheep may be at more risk from climate change.

The researchers also found that species with higher latitudinal and elevation ranges, like polar bears, American pikas and shadow chipmunks, were more likely to respond to climate change than mammals living lower in latitude and elevation.

The ability of mammals to hibernate, burrow and nest was not a good predictor of whether a species responded to climate change or not. American pikas have been extirpated from some of their previously occupied sites in the West, as have shadow chipmunks, which are in decline in California`s Yosemite National Park.

Some small mammals may shelter from climate change by using a wider array of "micro-climates" available in the vegetation and soil, McCain said.

The study has been published in the journal Global Change Biology.