This sample MLA paper discusses climate change from the perspective of the benefits, few though they are, that it has had on certain animal species. This sample essay was written at the undergraduate level for the Ultius blog.
Animals That Benefit from Climate Change
Climate change and global warming are considered by the scientific community to be detrimental to the environment and the many species of plants and animals that call Earth home, including humans. While this issue has recently gained a lot of attention, especially with the upcoming presidential election, it is not a new problem and has been taking its toll for some time. The effects are overwhelmingly negative, but it appears that a few fortunate animal species are benefitting from climate change. Seemingly, global warming has not has undesirable effects on all of us.
During the past few years, the wild boar population in Germany has greatly increased. Stories of human encounters with boars are incredibly common, including incidences in which runners are chased up trees or boars crashing into people’s homes and tearing up their homes. Though the animals are naturally shy and are only aggressive when they feel threatened, their large heads and long tusks make them look fearsome and the influx in their numbers has been quite alarming (Jongko). By 2009, their numbers reached up to more than two million boars Such dramatic changes to the population of wild boars is not unique to Germany, though; Austria, France, Poland, Switzerland, and the Netherlands have all been experiencing similar effects on their board populations, in addition to populations in Asia and the Americas (Crossland). The cause of these increased numbers appears to be climate change.
According to Torsten Reinwald, biologist and wild boar expert the DVJ, the German Hunting Association, “Wild boars are the clear winners of climate change,” (Crossland). The warmer winters we have been experiencing lately has greatly reduced the death rate for older boars and younger ones who are born later in the year. Furthermore, the increase in carbon dioxide levels in the atmosphere has increased the intensity of the sunlight that reads the earth, causing trees to produce more of the boars’ favorite foods- chestnuts and acorns (Crossland). Likewise, an increase in maize and rapeseed crops has provide the boars with fields of food upon which they can gorge themselves. Naturally, the reproduction rate of the animals increases with the amount of available food. Because the rate of reproduction for boars depends on a sow’s weight rather than her age, females are starting to bear litters and give birth as early as nine months of age, while still technically teenagers. Each sow of the proper age can have up to eight pups per year. The warmer weather resulting from climate change is undoubtedly very beneficial the world’s wild boar population.
Many sea creatures are faced with a number of catastrophic consequences of climate change. But amazingly, a certain group of sea creatures seems to be benefiting greatly- cephalopods. Over the last sixty years, octopus, squid, and cuttlefish, the species that make up the cephalopod group, have been experiencing a rapid rise in population. A study reviewed catch rates from cephalopod fisheries worldwide for thirty five species between 1953 and 2013. It found that there was a sharp increase in populations the very diverse group living in a variety of depths and environments (Weisberger). This information was actually discovered on accident. The University of Adelaide began the study when they grew concerned about the giant Australian cuttlefish population. It was found that, as a whole, cuttlefish are rapidly growing in numbers; even the giant Australian cuttlefish, though there was a decline, is growing in numbers at a noteworthy rate.
While this is undeniably wonderful news, it is not entirely surprising to the scientific community. Cephalopods are known for being highly adaptable creatures and are often referred to as the weeds of the sea. Their high metabolic rates and continuous growth mean they grow rapidly over their relatively short lifetimes of about two years (Weisberger). Even their biology is flexible, as their sexual maturity can be greatly influenced by environmental factors. Their adaptability in unmatched by the majority of marine species that live much longer.
The increase in cephalopod populations can have negative effects on the environment. Their high metabolic rates require them to eat frequently, which would take a toll on their prey, like mollusks, crabs, fish, and lobsters. When absolutely necessary, they have even been known to eat each other. Unfortunately, though, the climate change, causing oceans to warm fifteen times faster over the last sixty years than it has in the previous ten thousand (Weisberger), has led to a decrease in other populations like the ones the cephalopods feed on. For now, though, it seems that the climate change has been beneficial to the population of many different species of cephalopods.
Unlike the other animals mentioned here, some species that have benefited from climate change are not only found in the wild. Domesticated cats have also been experiencing population increases as a result of global warming. In the last decade or so, pet adoption centers and shelter have been flooded with cats and kittens in need of homes. Many shelters operated by the organization Pets Across America reported a thirty percent increase in the number of felines that needed to find new homes between 2005 and 2006 and other organizations report similar changes in their cat populations (stray, feral, and domesticated cats alike) (Thompson). The significant increase in the numbers of cats has been traced back to climate change and warmer temperatures.
Like other animals, cats breed in warmer weather, typically around spring time. Areas of the United States that usually see winters that are long and colder are now experiencing much shorter and warmer winters; this has led to almost year-round breeding. While there was once a reproduction lull in the felines’ breeding cycles, they known enjoy a perfect environment for breeding all year long. The Vice President of Pets Across America stated, “It is unlikely that global warming is probably not going to be slowing any time soon, therefore, it benefits everyone when pet owner take action and spay and neuter their pets” (Thompson). That being said, if global warming continues, as it likely will, we can expect the increase in cat populations to continue.
Starfish are another animal that has been positively impacted by climate change. Similar to other animals that benefit from the planet’s temperature change, the warmer temperatures and carbon dioxide levels brought about by global warming have had a positive effect on starfish populations. This is surprising because many of the animals who share their environment with starfish are experiencing opposite consequences. According to the University of British Columbia’s zoology department, “mollusks, bivalves, clams and mussels respond negatively to increased carbon dioxide. Starfish are growing faster, getting bigger faster, and they’re eating more” (Peeples). What gives the starfish its advantage is that it wears less armor than other marine invertebrates do. Ocean water is becoming more acidic as it absorbs more carbon dioxide, resulting in lower pH levels. The decrease in pH causes the calcified shells of various sea creatures to dissolve.
The University of British Columbia conducted a study to discover the effects of climate change on starfish. The starfish were placed into tanks with carbon dioxide levels and temperatures set to current and predicted future levels that were projected by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change. The starfish placed into tanks with high levels of carbon dioxide grew almost seventy percent more than those who were placed in tanks with lower carbon dioxide levels (Peeples). Carbon dioxide was certainly not the only thing to have such an alarming effect on the growth of the sea stars. A rise in the temperature of the water by about five and a half degrees Fahrenheit resulted in an upsurge in growth by more than one hundred percent (Peeples). Though many of their fellow marine animals are not experiencing similar effects, the starfish is obviously benefiting from climate change.
Global warming has benefitted rat snakes, as well. The University of Illinois conducted a study of rat snakes in Illinois, Ontario, and Texas in an attempt to understand how the animals have responded to climate change. Head researcher Patrick Weatherhead explained, “Rat snakes are a species with a broad geographic range so we could use latitude as a surrogate for climate change. What are rat snakes in Illinois going to be dealing with given the projections for how much warmer it will be 50 years from now? Well, go to Texas and find out.” (Larson). Because snakes use their environment to regulate their body temperature, the researchers were able to compare the ways snakes in Ontario regulate their temperature compared to those in Illinois and Texas.
It was found that global warming could actually benefit the rat snakes. Thermally, the environment would be better for them. In Texas, the hottest of the testing locations, rat snakes had turned to being more active at night to escape the blistering temperatures of the day time. Weatherhead does not believe that snakes in cooler temperatures would have trouble adapting to the rise in temperature resulting from climate change. There is already evidence of nighttime nest predation by snakes in Illinois, suggesting that they are already beginning to adjust their habits to the environmental change. A turn towards mostly nocturnal activity means that the snakes will be less likely to be eaten by predators who typically hunt them during the day and that their prey will be more easily caught unaware, both of which offer promising opportunities for the snakes to thrive. It is not believed that the change in behavior will result in an upsurge in snake populations, though, as they are still faced with shrinking habitats and are often killed by vehicles and people. Rather, it is expected to result in an expansion of the animals’ northern range.
Climate change is widely agreed upon to be a pressing concern. While the Earth has gone through similar cycles before, it is currently happening at a much more rapid and alarming rate. Factors contributing the global warming range from naturally occurring phenomenon to man-made contributions. Many species have been experiencing detrimental effects from the change in the climate, including diminishing populations. Surprisingly, though, some species have seen the opposite effect and are actually thriving in the changing environment. Though still considered to be a real problem, climate change is clearly not a death sentence for every species.
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Crossland, David. “Climate Change’s Clear Winners: Europe’s Wild Boar Population Exploding”. Spiegel Online International. Spiegel-Online-Pertnern, 25 Nov. 2009. Web. 12 Sept. 2016. http://www.spiegel.de/international/zeitgeist/climate-change-s-clear-winners-europe-s-wild-boar-population-exploding-a-663411.html
Jongko, Pail. “10 Animals That Surprisingly Benefit from Climate Change.” ListVerse. ListVerse, 09 Jun. 2016. Web. 14 Sept. 2016 http://listverse.com/2016/06/09/10-animals-that-surprisingly-benefit-from-climate-change/
Larson, Debra Levey. “Global warming beneficial to rat snakes”. University of Illinois, College of Agricultural, Consumer, and Environmental Sciences. Board of Trustees, University of Illinois, 07 Jan. 2013. Web. 14 Sept. 2016. http://news.aces.illinois.edu/news/global-warming-beneficial-ratsnakes
Peeples, Lynne. “Rising stars of the sea: Will global warming benefit starfish?” Scientific American. Scientific American, A Division of Nature America, Inc., 26 May 2009. Web. 14 Sept. 2016. http://blogs.scientificamerican.com/news-blog/rising-stars-of-the-sea-will-global-2009-05-26/#
Thompson, Andrea. “Adoption Group: Cat Invasion Due to Global Warming”. Live Science. Live Science, 06 Jun. 2007. Web. 13 Sept. 2016. http://www.livescience.com/1582-adoption-group-cat-invasion-due-global-warming.html