Tuesday, May 8, 2012

Primates - The Threat From Global Warming

As global warming news increasingly reaches media headlines around the world, it is important to think about the vast ecological and zoological consequences of warming temperatures. Significant changes to existing tropical habitats will have devastating effects for potentially hundreds of primate species around the world. Habitat reduction and alteration can potentially disrupt the delicate balance primates have with their surroundings and result in massive deaths. 

Let's take a look at a concrete example of how this process would unfold. If global surface temperatures increase (as projected to approximately +2'C by mid-century), the dense leaf content in tropical zones will contain more fiber and less protein. For those primates relying on digesting protein, the quantity needed would increase as well as the time required to digest (energy availability). Additionally, hotter temperatures would result in other behavior changes, such as primates descending from the upper tree canopy to cool off. The impact of more resting could be far reaching, as primates would be spending time away from mating, territory protection, and other activities, as well as be more exposed to predation. Finally, human interactions at the edges of tropical areas would increase as human resources would also increase in demand. These interactions often lead to poaching and other populate depleting actions. 

A report in 2007 from the Primate Specialist Group of IUCN's Species Survival Commission (SCC) found that 29% of the world's primates are in danger of becoming extinct from global warming threats. More recent research from Penn State has shown that El Nino events significantly affected the abundance of several species of primates in South America, a direct link between warmer temperatures, weather, food availability, and primate populations. We all must become educated on the incredible impacts of global warming and be advocates for change in our professional communities. 

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