AboutZoos, Since 2008


U.S. Wolver­ine Pop­u­la­tion Threat­ened by Cli­mate Change

pub­lished 24 July 2011 | mod­i­fied 06 Feb­ru­ary 2011

The wolver­ine may not sur­vive cli­mate change in the con­tigu­ous United States, accord­ing to recent research. Green­house gas emis­sions will affect the wolverine’s habi­tat in north­west­ern United States. The cli­mate will warm dra­mat­i­cally in that region says researcher Synte Pea­cock, who mod­elled three dif­fer­ent CO2–emis­sion scenarios.

This will lead, amongst oth­ers, to a spring with lit­tle or zero snow cover and increase of the aver­age August tem­per­a­ture by 68 °C , by the end of the 21st century.

Wolver­ines are the largest mustelids, and one of the least­known large car­ni­vores of north­ern Eura­sia and Amer­ica. The ani­mal is well-​adapted to cold weather and deep snow packs. It is widely recog­nised that spring snow cover is essen­tial for the wolver­ine to sur­vive, as is summer-​time tem­per­a­ture, which should not exceed an aver­age of 22 °C.

So, unless the wolver­ine is able to very rapidly adapt to these warmer cir­cum­stances, it is unlikely that it will con­tinue to sur­vive in the con­tigu­ous U.S. under a high or mod­er­ate emis­sions sce­nario. Only the low emis­sion sce­nario sug­gested cir­cum­stances which the wolver­ine could sur­vive, but very dras­tic mea­sures are nec­es­sary to cre­ate the dra­matic cuts to emis­sions that are required.

For­tu­nately, the north­west­ern U.S. is just a minor part of the habi­tat range of the wolver­ine, but cli­mate change will not only affect this part of the cir­cum­po­lar area. There­fore, the wolver­ine pop­u­la­tion is threat­ened, while the over­all trend already is one of retreat and declin­ing populations.

(Sources: Pro­jected 21st cen­tury cli­mate change for wolver­ine habi­tats within the con­tigu­ous United States by Synte Pea­cock, 25.01.2011; The Ency­clo­pe­dia of Mam­mals 2nd edi­tion Vol. II, ed. D.W. Macdonald)

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