Although some people in the US (including our president) regularly deny it, climate change is happening — and it’s happening quickly. Despite ample evidence that global warming is a widespread issue that needs a solution ASAP, the Trump White House continues to push antienvironmental policies,going so far as to condemn usage of the phrase “climate change.” But regardless of what America does or doesn’t believe, an increasing number of side effects are beginning to be reported around the world.
The most recent unexpected yet eye-opening side effect: rising temperatures are actually forcing grizzly bears to drastically alter their diets. While these bears are historically known to be omnivores, meaning they eat both meat and plants, new research suggests they’ve started opting for a more berry-based diet due to climate change.
A study recently published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences analyzed the brown bears found on Kodiak Island in Alaska. Though the bears typically feast on sockeye salmon in early summer and then elderberries later in the season around August and September, researchers found that during the warm Summer of 2014, the bears were too busy munching on berries to even care about the salmon. That’s because the berries ripened earlier than usual and offered a quicker means of gaining weight, as they require less energy to break down than salmon does.
This diet switch-up may seem inconsequential on the surface, but it’s actually harming the bears’ surrounding environments. “Bears switched from eating salmon to elderberries, disrupting an ecological link that typically fertilizes terrestrial ecosystems and generates high mortality rates for salmon,” the study read. “These results demonstrate an underappreciated mechanism by which climate-altered phenologies can alter food webs.” In layman’s terms: because the bears weren’t leaving fish carcasses in the surrounding forest areas, the soil wasn’t as enriched as it needs to be, meaning this small change in one species’s eating habits could actually end up affecting the entire ecosystem in the long run. Yikes.
This is just one of the numerous examples that demonstrates just how harmful global warming is for animals. Unless world leaders decide on a plan of action for addressing the issue, the future is looking bleak for some of our favorite furry friends. Here’s to hoping Trump rethinks his choice to remove the US from the Paris Climate Agreement . . .