Should Humans Relocate Animals Threatened by Global Warming?

By Eliza Strickland | July 18, 2008 2:32 pm

penguins with suitcasesResearchers have already noted that global warming is causing some species to shift their habitats, like mountain animals that are moving to higher latitudes to find the cooler temperatures that they’re adapted for. But now some conservationists say it’s time to consider relocating species that are threatened with extinction due to their rapidly changing habitats. It’s a process called “assisted colonization.”

Some researchers say that as the extinction rate zooms upwards, humans will have no choice but to step in to save some animals. “It’s a showdown. The impacts of climate change on animals have become apparent. And it’s time to decide whether we’re going to do something,” said ecologist Jessica Hellmann…. “Reducing CO2 is vital, but we might have to step in and intervene” [Wired News].

In an article in the science journal Science [subscription required], researchers say that humans would have to choose which animals to resettle, and they offer a list of conditions under which such assisted colonization would be appropriate, including imminent extinction, feasibility and a favorable cost–benefit analysis [Scientific American]. They’d have to be careful not to cause more problems by dropping a new species into a ecosystem, explains study author Camille Parmesan: “Passively assisting coral reef migration may be acceptable, but transplanting polar bears to Antarctica, where they would likely drive native penguins to extinction, would not be acceptable” [AP].

Some conservationists are alarmed by the idea of assisted colonization, and say that we should focus our efforts on less desperate measures, like establishing wildlife corridors that could allow animals to move to more favorable terrain on their own. Others note that humans have had a bad track record when it comes to moving species and disrupting environments. The introduced kudzu vine now chokes much of the U.S. South, and the noxious cane toad has spread successfully across Australia. That’s why any movement should be modest—especially at first—and only employed for species that are well understood, experts say [National Geographic News].

Image: flickr/Livin-Lively

CATEGORIZED UNDER: Environment, Living World
  • arthur

    Of course we should relocate the animals….!!!! Its our fault weve destroyed theyre environment and will possible cause another mass extinction. We need to get our heads out of our proverbial as*es and start facing up to the mistakes that we have made and get that govt ball rolling!!!

    Weve come so far so fast and we still want to pass the buck onto the next generation and let them deal with it. Isnt that the mentallity we all have, lets just sweep it under the rug and let our kids deal with it cause we dont have the money, or we dont have the time. We must reduce green house emissions, implement alternative fuel sources like flex fuels, hydrogen power stations(not just fuel cells)and renewable resources like wind, solar, even thermal….this isnt just affecting little Jimmy down the road the next country over, weve got ONE world…thats it, thats all!!

    Either we do the drastic stuff now or its game over not for just the animals but us too!!

  • John

    I suppose you would have saved all of the dinosaurs from their ultimate demise, or all of the creatures plants etc. from all of the major “global changes” of the past. We were not guilty of the changes that caused those massive die offs nor the one we are experiencing now its simply fate. I know lets just give the government all of the money everyone earns and sit back and watch as they “fix” this poor planet. Remember the Earth will be here long after we are extinct.

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  • Rose

    Ofcouse it would be great if we could just move them but its not that simple its an eco system all depending on each other. Say there was a forrest all the plants thriving except one that a certain insect mates on and when that plant becomes extinct so does the insect and then you see that insect had been plonating the other plants but when its gone the other plants will die to because they needed to be pollonated. So its sad but we cant just move a whole ecosystem.

  • wil

    no every time we have relocated a species it always upseted the balance, rats, rabits in australia, andacondas in florida, afican bees. instead of relocating em we need to fix there habit not move it

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