Nature

Mesmerizing Map Shows the Future of Animal Migration

August 30, 2016 | Erica Tennenhouse

animal migration map
Photo credit: Dan Majka/The Nature Conservancy

Here’s how mammals, birds, and amphibians will move in response to climate change.

Changing climates through history have pushed species into new habitats. But these days, with so much of the landscape occupied by humans, animals are being forced switch up their migration patterns to survive.

Researchers at the University of Washington and The Nature Conservancy have created an animated map showing how mammals, birds, and amphibians are projected to move in the Western Hemisphere under global warming.

The map uses color-coded streaks to show how different types of animals will respond to climate change. In general, animals are projected to move away from the equator as the area becomes increasingly hot and dry, but black zones on the map represent large cities or other features that will serve to impede migration.

“This is the best visualization of any of these studies we’ve done. It’s much more compelling than our static maps,” said Joshua Lawler, lead author of the accompanying Ecology Letters study, in a press release. “The flow diagram really makes the data much more accessible.”

The study predicts where nearly 3,000 species will venture, and identifies likely animal migration hotspots, all of which are easily visualized on the map.

In the US, the Appalachians stick out as a potential corridor for species headed north to escape the heat. The cool tops of mountains to the west may also become important refuges.

In South America, the map reveals a projected exodus of species due west out of the Amazon.

“It was shocking to see these features emerge so clearly. You can really see them when the data are visualized like this,” Lawler remarked.

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