Climate Change

Migration in Motion: Visualizing Species Movements Due to Climate Change

Migrations in motion map. View full screen map

As climate change alters 
habitats and disrupts ecosystems, where will
 animals move to survive?
 And will human development prevent them from getting there?

Now you can see those migrations in motion.

New research from Conservancy and university scientists revealed that only 41 percent of the natural land area in the United States retains enough connectivity to facilitate species tracking their preferred climate conditions as the global climate changes. As part of that study, scientists modeled the distribution and habitat needs of 2,903 vertebrate species in the Western hemisphere against land use and projected climate patterns.

Previous work mapped the geographic areas in the western hemisphere through which species will likely need to move to track their suitable climates. That study identified that the Amazon Basin, southeastern United States and southeastern Brazil are three areas with projected high densities of climate-driven movements.

Conservancy cartographer and analyst Dan Majka brought this data to life in a series of maps that show what corridors mammals, amphibians, and other animals will use as they move to new habitats under projected climate change. Inspired by wind maps of the United States, and using code from Earth global wind map, adapted by Chris Helm, Majka’s dynamic map allows scientists and the public to see the continent-wide impact of climate change on animals and visualize corridors they will need to move.

Check out the map above, and use the navigation tools in the upper-right to investigate migration patterns in both North and South America.

Justine E. Hausheer

Justine E. Hausheer is a science writer for The Nature Conservancy, covering the innovative fieldwork and research conducted by Conservancy’s scientists around the world. She has a degree from Princeton University and a master's in Science, Health, and Environmental Reporting from New York University. Justine has battled swarms of mosquitos, steep trails, and the wilds of the Papua New Guinea rainforest — all for a good story. When not writing about conservation science, she enjoys having far-flung adventures, long hikes, and waking up at dawn to bird. More from Justine

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24 comments

  1. Of course, this totally ignores the fact climate change has been around since the Earth was born and animal habitats are always in flux because of it. It also ignores the fact Anthropogenic Global Warming is a scam that even the head of the IPCC admits is a myth designed to facilitate global economic redistribution. The observed hard data doesn’t support the theory. The physics of CO2 don’t support the theory.

    It also pretends to be authoritative when, in reality, the mapmaker has absolutely no idea where animals will move to or what routes they will take. For example, why would birds (who can fly; a fact apparently overlooked by the mapmaker) take the same basic routes as animals who can not fly?

    Why is there an animal collection point in Wyoming – and why would animals all migrate to the same specific spot in Wyoming in the first place?

    The map is designed in fantasy expressly for the enjoyment and continued brainwashing of people who can’t differentiate fact from propaganda.

    1. Of course the world has changed before that is NOT the issue. The issues are:
      (a) The climate is changing very fast and it is quite possible many species that are around today may not survive. That will not be good for the planet nor us humans. I don’t know about you but I quiet like the planet the way it is.
      (b) We now have 6 billion humans living on the earth -heading towards 9 billion (sigh). Many of those humans live in areas that will become marginal or uninhabitable – where do they go, how do they survive, what happens to drinkable water supplies etc. etc. ? The social unrest caused by climate change could be catastrophic. (for example see: http://www.scientificamerican.com/article/climate-change-and-rising-food-prices-heightened-arab-spring/).
      (c) Given the cost of (b) any short term costs to mitigate climate change will be chump change. In the end reducing climate change will cost less in financial, human and environmental terms. The sooner we get going the cheaper and less disruptive the changes will be. We have to be responsible for our actions.

  2. A question to clarify: Is the data depicted in the map taken from observations in the field or from projected climate changes?

  3. Look at that… all the animals are going to Canada! Rats from a sinking ship? 😉

    1. Depending on who wins the election in the U.S., Canada might see a huge migration of homosapiens

  4. I’m a climate activist and blogger. I would like to embed the Migration map into my site if you can share an embed code. This is my website. I love the work you do.

    http://bit.ly/QZilr0

  5. I always wondered what will happen to migration routes, when climate change destroys most of the other habitats. Great map work, i do wish it included reptiles as most reptiles will migrate as well. What does this mean for warmer parts of the earth, like Florida? Will this have little to no effect on the american alligator? I will say this is present even with these magnificent animals, as now we see alligators as far North as Virginia.
    Is this just as i expected, are the warmer places going to become the cooler places and the cooler places become the warmer places, hmm… i am not sure on this question as i have never studied climate change as a whole.
    Great article, really well done.

  6. I have 9 years working at Mirador – Río Azul National Park, in the Mayan Biosphere, Guatemala. Despite being the last pristine and wild corner of the biosphere, I have noticed that the number of small birds in the last two years , has declined drastically.
    Dr. Thomas Rainer , who works inthe Mirador project, told me at the end of 2015, he was surprised by the low presence of insects in the area. No insects, no birds!!!

    Does any body can explain it to mee?????
    Is there any institution ho will like to come and find out why these is happening??

    Francisco Asturias

  7. Maybe include insects & microbes (particularly those that transmit/cause disease) and humans , as their coastal homes submerge under rising seas? Wonderful graphic for communicating, ‘mountains’ of science publications! Peoples have been traipsing around the world for millennia, but climate change is dramatically increasing the rate– with implications for all living creatures.

  8. In the last number of years, I have noticed a great change in my backyard birds. I live in western Oregon, in Carlton. We used to get so many birds, it sounded like a jungle. We had grossbeaks, goldfinches, chickadees, etc etc, all summer long. Now there are hardly any of these… Sometimes in the spring and in the fall as they migrate, but the rest of the summer, none….. There are some birds around but not to the extent as in the past. Really sad…….

  9. I’m a little confused by this map. The article talks about two things that involve animal movement: migration *and* shifts due to climate change. In this map, I do not see any delineation between the 1) the animal’s original migration route and 2) their new, shifted migration route due to climate change. It would also be useful to know how many of each taxa (mammals, amphibians and birds) are used in this map.

    It’s a really cool moving map, but more information would be useful!

  10. I am surprised by the southward migration of reptiles as shown on the southern border of Texas and northern Mexico. It appears to show reptiles moving south to a warmer climate.

  11. Could this be the reason we are having more bear sightings in our area.? I live in central Massachusetts. I’ve also noticed the birds that I have coming to my feeders are acting differently. I live in an area where there is a mixture of woods and homes. Still quite a lot of woods.

  12. Justine, love the graphic. Do you have similar for fish?
    Thanks, Denise Wagner

  13. A very hypothetical map, but interesting to view. Good visual reminder of basic biogeographical principals, but I don’t expect the armadillos will make it to Nova Scotia.

    I would have liked to see Australia and other continents, besides the Americas, modeled.

    Thanks,
    Cheers

  14. What can we humans do to help? I know some places have and are hopefully building more animal bridges to help cougars and such get over interstates and bridges. I know using less electricity and fossil fuels will help slow down climate change. cant believe we live in thumpgang land who don’t understand or care what they do to the earth and its inhabitant’s.

    1. Two of the most common recommendations I see are to take down or modify fences where they aren’t necessary and to conserve more corridors between areas that are already protected. You might be interested in this post with more detail: https://blog.nature.org/science/2016/06/29/species-on-the-move-mapping-barriers-for-wildlife-in-a-warming-world/ or this one specifically on fencing options: https://blog.nature.org/science/2017/06/26/how-pronghorn-cross-fence-wildlife-connectivity/