Climate Change Is Helping Invasive Species Spread Northward

This creepy, furry little bug is called a Southern pine beetle, and it's on the move. Thanks to northern climes slowly warming up over the years, these beetles are migrating northward and wreaking havoc on local forests.

Columbia University's Ben Orlove wrote a blog post last week explaining the cause behind a thick layer of smoke and haze that choked the New York City metro area on Monday April 7. The poor air quality was the result of smoke that spread north from a pine forest fire in southern New Jersey.

Orlove notes that the beetles are moving north into areas where they are not native, killing many previously-healthy trees, effectively turning them into tinder waiting for a spark.

This past December, Smithsonian Magazine ran a piece on how climate change is allowing invasive species to move into non-native areas and turn local ecosystems on their collective heads.

The longer seasons, however, are also helping invasive plants annex American soil; extended springs mean they can more quickly push aside native species and transform ecosystems. "What's interesting about climate change is that humans are effectively manipulating how species experience time," says ecologist Elizabeth Wolkovich of the Biodiversity Research Centre at the University of British Columbia.

As much of the media's coverage of the effects of climate change focuses on its direct impact on humanity, it's a good (albeit unsettling) reminder that humans aren't the only organisms affected by a changing climate.

[Image by University of Florida via the linked article | h/t Raphael Orlove for the story, thanks!]