Birds that live in extremely harsh environments actually become smarter, which could have big implications for global warming, according to a new study.
Scientists from the University of Bath examined data from 1,200 bird species across the world and found that they evolved larger brains to cope in harsh environments where the tasks of finding food, evading predators and finding shelter are more demanding.
“These results have significant implications for climate change,” Dr. Tamás Székely, a biology professor who was involved in the research, said in a press statement. “Since fluctuations in climate and the frequency of extreme events such as storms, floods and droughts, are expected to increase in coming decades; we predict that smart creatures may cope better with these changes than less brainy ones.”
Most birds have large brains compared to their body size, but those that live in extreme environments have even larger brains proportionally. This surprised researchers because big brains take up far more energy than smaller ones. The results indicate that birds will likely be way more resilient to global warming than scientists thought.
Research published by the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) in July suggests more of the carbon dioxide (CO2) that causes global warming will increase plant growth, which would limit the impact of global warming.
Previous studies estimate that global warming is causing roughly half of Earth’s land-mass to demonstrate “significant greening” and that only 4 percent of the world saw a decrease in plant life. The increased vegetation presumably permitted by warmer temperatures is likely slowing global warming as well, since more trees and plants sequester CO2.
Another study funded by The National Science Foundation and the Department of Energy found that rising CO2 emissions will not cause global agriculture to collapse and could even boost agricultural yields.
Other research suggests that increasing global temperatures means the air has more capacity to hold moisture from the oceans, leading to more rains in arid regions of the world. This is even true in the Earth’s driest regions, such as the Sahara desert. The research concludes that arid areas and deserts in Australia, California, Central Asia, Sinai and Southwestern Africa can all expect more rain.
This is the latest scientific study to show that nature is considerably more resilient to global warming than scientists suspected. Even the United Nations Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) now believes the evidence linking global warming to extinctions is sparse.
Global warming will likely have many positive environmental impacts, if research is accurate, such as helping Canadian trees recover from a devastating insect infestation, creating more food for saltwater fish, making life easier for Canadian moose, improving the environment so it is better for bees and causing deserts to bloom with actual foliage.
Despite the growing consensus, environmental groups still believe that plants and animals aren’t capable of adapting to changing temperatures, which they zealously insist will lead to mass extinctions and agricultural disruptions purportedly caused by global warming.
“One-fourth of the Earth’s species could be headed for extinction by 2050 due to climate change,” The Nature Conservancy claims. “Rising temperatures are changing weather and vegetation patterns across the globe, forcing animal species to migrate to new, cooler areas in order to survive.”
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