The impact of climate change on marmot survival differs between seasons
Many animals have evolved life cycles and strategies (patterns of survival and reproduction) in line with predictable seasonal variation in environmental conditions. Short and mild summers produce bursts of vegetation and food, the perfect time to give birth to young. Long, harsh winters when food is scarce have shaped animals to largely depend on fat reserves for energy, and in extreme cases, to hibernate or migrate.
However, climate change is altering these seasonal conditions to which many species are adapted. Temperatures are increasing, winter snowfall is declining, snow is melting earlier, summers are extending, and the frequency of extreme events (e.g., droughts, floods) are on the rise.
A new study published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences reports that marmot survival is affected differently by climate change during summer and winter seasons.
The research, carried out in and around the Rocky Mountain Biological Laboratory in Colorado, analyzed 40 years of life-history data to understand how yellow-bellied marmots (large burrowing ground squirrels) have responded to climate change during their active summer season and the long winter hibernation.
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