In a paper published in Nature Climate Change, a team of researchers led by the UW's Center for Ecosystem Sentinels reports that climate change is increasing human-wildlife conflicts globally. They show that climate shifts can drive conflicts by altering animal habitats, the timing of events, wildlife behaviors and resource availability. But people are also changing their behaviors and locations in response to climate change in ways that increase conflicts.
“We found evidence of conflicts between people and wildlife exacerbated by climate change on six continents, in five different oceans, in terrestrial systems, in marine systems, in freshwater systems – involving mammals, reptiles, birds, fish and even invertebrates,” said lead author Briana Abrahms, a UW assistant professor of biology. “Although each individual case has its own array of different causes and effects, these climate-driven conflicts are really ubiquitous.”
To identify trends, the team pored over published, peer-reviewed incidents of human-wildlife conflicts and identified cases that were linked specifically to the effects of climate change. These include both short-term climate events — such as a drought — as well as longer-term changes. Warming in the Arctic, for example, is leading to loss of sea ice which has left polar bears short of food. They increasingly travel on land, sometimes entering human settlements and attacking people, as a recent incident in Alaska illustrates.
The new study shows that climate shifts can drive conflicts by altering animal habitats — like sea ice for polar bears — as well as the timing of events, wildlife behaviors and resource availability. It also showed that people are changing their behaviors and locations in response to climate change in ways that increase conflicts.
Read the full story in UW News.