When we talk about global warming's biological impact, we tend to focus on animals and plants whose habitats are being so drastically changed that they are facing the threat of extinction. But what about animals who benefit from global warming?
Of course, there aren't very many species likely to come out better off from global warming, certainly compared to those that will struggle to survive the rising temperatures and changing environments. But it's still worth examining which species are best surviving, even thriving in the new conditions being created. It's a list that includes killer whales, wandering albatrosses, mosquitoes, jellyfish, and trumpeter swans.
Scientific American has an excellent overview of how these animals are benefiting from global warming. Orcas, for instance, can hunt much more effectively in the Arctic Sea because their prey now has fewer patches of sea ice in which they can hide. Trumpeter Swans are also enjoying the warming North, as they are spreading out their breeding grounds into the newly warm regions. Albatrosses in the Antarctic are able to exploit the stronger air currents to hunt more quickly and spend more time with their chicks. There's also a rather adorable mammal in the United States that is already seeing huge benefits from climate change:
A 2010 study in the journal Nature reported that yellow-bellied marmots in Colorado's Rocky Mountains are also flourishing thanks to climate change. The squirrel-like mammals can lose up to 40 percent of their body mass during hibernation, and longer summers are giving them more time to eat and store fat, helping them live through the winter and reproduce the following year. The adult marmots have gained half a pound on average and their numbers have more than doubled from 2000 to 2010, said researchers.
There are some other fascinating examples in the article, but be warned - even the "winners" of climate change might not be able to remain victorious for very long. Species like the Colorado marmot might enjoy warmer temperatures now, but they might not be able to deal with the heat of 2050 or 2100, while those like the wandering albatross may adapt to their new wind patterns by getting increasingly violent, threatening the overall health of the species. They species may well inherit this warm new Earth - the question is how long they will be able to keep it.