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Riled Up is a journal of science, the environment, exploration, new technology, and related commentary.  Contributors include scientists, explorers, engineers, and others who provide perspectives and context not typically offered in general news circulation.  For interested readers, additional resources are included.

The Conservation Alliance

Ecology in Motion

Ecology in Motion

Hopkin's rose nudibranch (credit: UCSC Institute of Marine Sciences)

Ecosystems are always responding to their environment and adapt as climactic factors change. It is all about the timeline involved. If not disturbed, environments are stable over centuries and maintain relatively static populations of plants and animals. Ecosystems can show abrupt changes when a stress factor alters the stability and react in a shorter time period of a few years or decades. This can be especially noticeable at ecosystem boundaries (ecotones) like timberlines and coastal marine habitats. Several species are now showing population and movement changes in 'real time'.

In the coastal bays along California's central coast, a species of sea slug (nudibranch) is moving north as water temperatures rise rapidly affecting their distribution. Hopkin's Rose, a bright pink sea creature, was once uncommon near the coastal town of Santa Cruz. They are regularly seen by ecologists now having moved north to San Francisco and even further into Humboldt County near the Oregon border. The cause of their migrations is directly related to seawater temperatures. Further monitoring will allow to quantify th long-term trends but the nudibranchs offer an easy opportunity to gather data on various ecosystem changes in these coastal environments.

 

Hopkins rose nudibranch migrating (credit: UCSC Institute of Marine Sciences)

Other species show similar movements in response to changing temperatures. Coniferous trees in the Arctic are colonizing formerly tree-less tundra while pikas, the chirping rodents in alpine zones in Colorado and elsewhere in the West, may be running out of places to migrate as they are already at the top of their limited alpine habitats.

Publishing their finding in the Journal of Biogeography researchers at the Institute of Arctic & Alpine Research in Colorado report:"The American pika appears to have experienced climate-mediated upslope range contractions and may be subjected to above-average exposure to climate change because summer temperatures are projected to rise more than annual temperatures." Likewise, a long report has been has released on the: Impacts of Climate Change on the Tree Line

   American Pika (credit: UC-Boulder/INSTAAR, Chris Ray)  Arctic treeline expansion (University of Alberta)



Pink sea-slugs (a marine mollusk), alpine pikas (an alpine mammal), and tough pine trees (conifers) from ecosystems far apart are telling us something is happening ecologically. Each species is being affected by the same environment factor, increasing temperatures. They are moving fast trying to adapt to the changes. It isn't difficult to connect-the-dots and understand why. WHB

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