27 Jun

Map of the Week: Animals Migration in Motion

By Joy Ndamukunda

As the seasons change, a large number of animal species move, frequently making the difficult and protracted trek to another region of the earth that would provide them with a better habitat. Still, as the Earth warms further, significant changes in weather patterns and seasonal fluctuations are having an impact on animal migration. This captivating animated map produced by The Nature Conservancy illustrates the migration patterns that birds, animals, and amphibians would need to follow as a result of global warming in order to preserve habitable climates. Using estimates of climate change and the climatic requirements of individual species, researchers from the Nature Conservancy and the University of Washington predicted possible habitats for 2954 species. They generated travel trajectories for each species, linking their existing habitats with their anticipated locations under climate change, using flow models from electronic circuit theory. According to recent studies by scientists from the Conservancy and universities, only 41% of the United States natural land area is still connected enough for species to be able to track their ideal environment as the climate changes globally. 

It is evident that the Appalachians serve as a vital conduit for migration brought on by climate change. Situated in the heart of one of the most developed regions in the nation, they hold remnants of the last untamed area in the eastern United States. The map merely serves to further emphasize how important those high-elevation areas will become. A vivid band of yellow is spreading westward across South America, leaving the Amazon basin behind and ascending to higher altitudes. It’s the same in upstate New York’s Catskill Mountains.

Viewing any location on the map, even at low elevations, provides insight not just into the geography of animals’ movements to avoid the heat but also into human settlements, places of employment, and agricultural practices. Despite having the largest population in the country, New York is practically a ghost town when it comes to animal migrations caused by warming temperatures. Nevertheless, this illustration demonstrates that the natural world may still adapt to the threats posed by growing urbanization and climate change.