When habitats or conditions that animals and plants depend upon change too rapidly, species may not have enough time to evolve to keep thriving. Heather Furman, the state director of The Nature Conservancy in Vermont says their mission is to protect the state’s land and water from changes such as these.
“We are facing a biodiversity crisis. We are losing our wildlife at an alarming rate, not only the types of species but the abundance of species.” said Furman.
For example, consider the milder winters Vermont is experiencing. Wildlife biologists have spotted bears outside their dens during months that historically would have found them slumbering. This could then lead to wildlife migrating and leaving the state, or even not surviving their new habitats.
“Many species populations are down 20, 30 maybe even 40 percent from where they were 50 years ago in the 1970s, so that is really alarming.” said Furman.
Wildlife species thrive in predictability says Furman. Events like the major freeze in the south, which species are not prepared for, is a direct example of climate change.
“They have been adapting to our cycles of winter and summer and spring for thousands of years and now with climate change there is a lot more unpredictability.” said Furman.
As climate changes, so will habitats that Vermont’s animals depend on for food, shelter and breeding areas. But how can we protect our native species and habitats?
“If we ensure that our habitat is connected, our forests and wetlands are protected then species can move and adapt if the face of climate change.” said Furman.
The Nature Conservancy’s research has shown that our forests, grasslands and wetlands can provide up to 37% of emission reductions needed by 2030 to keep global temperatures rise under two degrees.