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Global Warming and Hibernation: What's the Connection?

written by: AlyssaAst•edited by: Laurie Patsalides•updated: 11/20/2010

How are hibernating animals affected by global warming? What is the effect on the environment? Hibernating animals seem to be most significantly affected by the rising temperatures, as they can cause a drastic threat to the species survival.

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    Hibernating Animals and Global Warming

    As global warming causes the temperatures to rise, it becomes an increasing concern how are hibernating animals affected by global warming? These animals can be severely affected by the higher temperatures.

    Global warming is likely to shorten the length of time the animals hibernate. Although this may not see like a drastic change, it can have severe consequences on the population and survival of those animals. The affects of the rising temperatures can already be seen in that of chipmunks, marmots, and brown bears. It has already been noted that these animals are sleeping for shorter amounts of time, some not even hibernating at all.

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    Hibernating Animals May Starve

    The lack of proper hibernation can cause many animals to begin to starve. Many animals go into hibernation because the winter months make it difficult for these animals to find adequate food sources. If the animals do not sleep the entire winter, or do not sleep at all, they can have an extremely difficult time finding enough food to survive. This will not only cause starvation, but can put many species on the brink of extinction. It does not take a dramatic change in the temperature to cause extreme effects to a species. Many scientists believe it can occur with as little as 2.5 degrees change.

    Some animals will starve due to their own metabolism. As animals hibernate, their metabolism and heart rate greatly decrease, allowing them to survive such a long slumber. If the animals wake sooner than they should, their metabolism will return to normal at an inappropriate time. This will cause them to look for food early, which may not be available to them at that time. It can cause them to stray from their usual food source and seek other means of survival. As their food habits change, they aren’t likely to receive the adequate nutrition they need. This can cause an increase in diseases, malnutrition, and even death.

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    Hibernating Animals and Reproduction

    The reproduction cycles of hibernating animals can also be affected by global warming. As the animals wake earlier, it can cause their breeding season to become altered. This can cause them to give birth at inappropriate times. This can leave their young struggling to survive, often dying.

    All the changes global warming can bring to hibernating animals may cause many species to balance on the brink of endangerment or extinction. If some of these animals become extinct, much of our environment will be impacted. Other species will begin to overpopulate, while others struggle to survive. It will cause a chain reaction throughout the Earth and it's environment.

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    “Global Warming Wakes Groundhogs Earlier” By Sara Goudarzi Life Science

    “Effects of Global Warming” Standford

    “Bears Give Up Hibernation: Global Warming” Iema