What is an average species and can it move?
A team of scientists from the University of York examined the movement of 2,000 animal and plant species over the past decade. According to their study, published in Science last month, in their exodus from increasing heat, species have moved, on average, 13.3 yards higher in altitude — twice the predicted rate — and 11 miles higher in latitude — three times faster than expected. These changes have happened most rapidly where the climate has warmed the most.
Aside from the study failing to link climate change per se (as opposed to, say, human encroachment) with the above-described “exodus” and the notion that species aren’t supposed to move, the concept of an “average species shift” is at least as bogus as the concept of “average global temperature.”
What is the answer to, say:
(Worm + Lion + Canary + Whale)/4 = ?
And then, whatever the answer, is it really meaningful to say how it has moved its stomping grounds?
Levity aside, can the short-term moves of aquatic, avian and land-based species really be averaged together than then blamed on slight changes in average temperature?
If a population of whales has moved 100 miles north and a population of worms has moved 100 feet north, has the whale-worm moved 50 miles and 50 feet north? What could that possibly mean?
The Times’ editors conclude their latest polemic with the following melodrama:
We are holding the future of every species on this planet — including ourselves — hostage.
But when we asked a researcher who had supposed reviewed 1,100 studies on the topic of species endangered by climate change, he failed to produce a single example of such harm.