Tropical species move north as winters warm

Olivia Egan, Staff Writer

Everyone knows that birds and other mammals move south during the winter to seek out warmer temperatures. However, as our winters get warmer due to the effects of global warming, some of these species are slowly moving northward as colder weather decreases, according to Science Daily. It’s a slow process, impeded by the rare cold snaps like the one that took place in Texas this year. According to Caroline Williams, a professor of integrative biology at the University of California, Berkeley, these snaps, “might not happen for 30 or 50 or even 100 years,” and it becomes easier for these species to increase their territory as the time between these periods of cold becomes longer and longer. 

While some of these movements are positive, such as sea turtles moving north along the coast of the Atlantic Ocean, other species are not as welcome. Some anticipated changes include the increase in cases of tropical diseases such as West Nile virus and Yellow Fever as mosquitos carrying these continue to slowly make their way northward. There is also the potential increase in wildfires as different types of grasses move into the southwestern deserts to grow alongside native plants that have yet to adapt to withstand frequent fire activity. Another species that could move northward is the Burmese Python, a snake whose average adult tends to measure anywhere from 8 to 18 feet in length. That is not something anyone wants to find in their house late at night. 

Over the next century, we can expect to see a significant increase in tropical plants and animals appearing in places where they previously wouldn’t have been found. Studies are being done on how the increasing time between cold snaps will affect these tropical species abilities to adapt to their new situations. Williams believes that “The actions that we take over the next 20 years are going to be critical in determining our trajectory.” Along with other climate change experts such as the American Association for the Advancement of Science, the consensus is clear; we need to work together to lower our carbon emissions and work to increase our positive impacts on the planet for the best chance at slowing these increases in temperature.