At the time, experts claimed that the climate crisis was likely to blame for the polar bear invasion since decreasing sea ice pushed them to turn to trash left by people for sustenance. The results of a recent study conducted by University of Washington (UW) experts indicate that this was not an unusual incidence.
According to a press release from Briana Abrahms, a UW assistant biology professor and the study’s lead author, we discovered evidence of conflicts between people and wildlife that have been exacerbated by climate change on six continents, in five different oceans, in terrestrial systems, in marine systems, in freshwater systems, involving mammals, reptiles, birds, fish, and even invertebrates.
Although each situation has a unique set of causes and consequences, these climate-related conflicts are really rather common.
According to The Guardian, the article, which was published in Nature Climate Change, was an assessment of three decades of research. The research team concentrated on 49 occurrences and searched for peer-reviewed documentation of human-wildlife conflicts that could be directly linked to the effects of climate change.
Also, they discovered that during the ten-year study period, the number of pertinent studies increased by a factor of four.
The study discovered that between 1970 and 2005, the number of bear-human contacts in Churchill, Manitoba, Canada—the city that is already known as the world’s polar bear capital—tripled.
Polar bears have long served as the poster animals for the climate problem. Yet, the paper also uncovered disputes in unexpected locations, from Scotland to Sumatra.
One of the main implications of this article, according to Abrahms, is how pervasive it is around the world.
Changes in temperature or rainfall were to blame for more than 80% of the cases. For instance, a 2009 drought in western Tanzania drove elephants to graze on nearby crops for nourishment, according to the news release.
Elephants could consume two to three acres of crops every day, therefore subsistence farmers would occasionally resort to killing them in order to secure their harvest. In another instance, El Nio-induced increases in ocean and air temperatures off South Africa caused a rise in shark attacks.
According to The Guardian, 43 percent of instances recorded in the research under evaluation resulted in human harm or death, compared to 45 percent of incidents that resulted in injury or death to wildlife.
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Although these results are alarming, scientists believe that by researching these growing disputes, they will be able to uncover solutions to help prevent them.
They said in the abstract that by identifying these routes, mitigation techniques, and proactive policies can be developed to reduce the effects of human-wildlife conflict on biodiversity conservation and human well-being in a changing climate.
In fact, one of the cases they looked at had a successful outcome. A record number of blue and humpback whales were becoming entangled in fishing nets off the coast of California in 2014 and 2015, according to researchers.
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According to the University of California, Santa Cruz, they eventually discovered that this was caused by a record-breaking marine heat wave in the Pacific from 2014 to 2016 known as the warm blob (UCSC).
Jarrod Santora, a researcher in applied mathematics at UC Santa Cruz and the paper’s lead author, explained the phenomenon in a press release from the university. “With the ocean warming, we saw a shift in the ecosystem and in the feeding behavior of humpback whales that led to a greater overlap between whales and crab fishing gear,” Santora said.
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California modified its fishing laws in response to the data so that they are better sensitive to when and where whales are likely to be based on ocean conditions.
According to Abrahms in the news release, these instances demonstrate how you may create interventions to benefit both people and wildlife if you understand the underlying causes of a dispute. We are adaptable.