Climate Change Has Been Good For Wildlife, Ecologist Says

  • Date: 07/07/17
  • Jon Austin, Daily Express

Climate change and human changes to the natural world have had a positive impact on wildlife, a professor has controversially claimed. Human impact on our planet has not been as bad as though according to the book.

In his new book, Inheritors of the Earth, ecologist and environmentalist professor Chris Thomas, overturns the accepted story of declining biodiversity on Earth, revealing how nature is fighting back.The University of York academic says nature is fighting back against human industrialisation of the globe and that, in the short-term, climate change has benefited some species.

His book challenges us to “look positively at the impact of humans on the natural world”.

The professor argues many animals and plants actually benefit from our presence, raising biological diversity in most parts of the world and increasing the rate at which new species are formed, perhaps to the highest level in Earth’s history.

A statement from the university about the book said: “He argues that the fauna and flora of Britain are much richer today than 10,000 years ago as a result of farming, towns, gardening, climate change and the deliberate introduction of exotic species.

“In Britain, the effects can be seen with the humble sparrow. Sparrows are not native to our country but spread from central Asia with people.

“In Italy they hybridised with Spanish sparrows to produce a new true-breeding species.

“Once in decline, they are now protected and encouraged in Britain.”

Express.co.uk asked the academic how climate change could benefit wildlife.

He said: “This is simply because more species live in somewhat hotter (like central France) than cooler (like Britain) parts of Europe.”When the climate warms, there are more of these heat-loving species available to spread northwards than there are cold-loving species (e.g. those restricted to Scottish mountains) available to die out.

“The same is true in many other parts of the world – most species live in the hot tropics and can spread when it warms – but it is a very complicated story because rainfall will also vary.

“So, the conclusion holds for some of the world but not all of it.”

However, he made it clear, in the long-term the effects of global warming could be catastrophic, and he still supports the lowering of greenhouse gas emissions.

He said: “This does not let us off the hook. Lots of species that are unable to spread will become extinct when the climate warms.

“We should minimise greenhouse gas emissions to avoid this.”

Even the rainforests are coping with mad made impacts such as deforestation.

He said: “They are not (thriving), and it would be a seriously bad global plan to cut them all down, because of the carbon they contain as well as their biological richness.

“In my book, I do not deny for a moment that there are losses as well as gains.

“However, even in the Atlantic forest region of Brazil, as many bird species like cattle egrets and burrowing owls have arrived and established populations in the new farmland as have died out from deforestation.

“Forest is still needed to save forest species, but there are new opportunities for species that exploit human-modified land.”

The book takes readers on a round-the-world journey to meet the enterprising creatures that are thriving in the Anthropocene, from York’s ochre-coloured comma butterfly to hybrid bison in North America, scarlet-beaked pukekos in New Zealand, and Asian palms forming thickets in the European Alps.

He questions our “irrational persecution” of so-called “invasive species”, arguing that they are simply successful species, well suited to the human-altered world.Professor Thomas, from the University’s Department of Biology, said: “Life on Earth is a process, not a faded masterpiece that needs to be restored to a past state that no longer exists.

“Like others, I am concerned about the extinction of the world’s species, but it is equally valid for us to appreciate the increases in diversity that have already taken place in the human epoch.

“This enables us to champion a more optimistic, forward-looking approach to conservation whereby we appreciate biological gains as much as we regret the losses.”

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