Global Warming Not Likely To Help Mountain Gorillas 

Posted on August 28th 2019

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Global warming could end up causing stress to mountain gorillas that live in Virunga and result in increased risk of health problems and cause early death the results of a new study suggest. Researchers collected fecal samples from the wild and found gorillas in Virunga National Park had elevated stress levels during months where there were higher than average temperatures and rainfall.

Sensitive to warming climates

The results suggest that gorillas in the park may well be more sensitive to a warming climate than the research previously had led scientists to believe the authors of the research paper wrote. The findings deliver robust evidence of how climate change may well elevate the stress level of the animals though the researchers say they do not yet know what the long-term impact of the physiological response will be. It may well portend to be a harbinger of reduced fertility and survival.

Multiple threats

Mountain gorillas are an endangered species with a total population in the wild of just over 1,000 individuals split between two regions. The Virunga massif is a chain of volcanoes that span DRC, Uganda and Rwanda. Gorillas in the region face multiple threats coming from habitat destruction and poaching as well as the impact of conflict. However, populations have risen as a result of major conservation efforts with 604 mountain gorillas recorded in 2016 up from 250 in the 80’s .

Wilder swings

It is expected that local temperatures could rise by a whopping 3.6C by 2090 relative to 1990 under a moderate scenario of greenhouse gas emissions. Additionally, rainfall will become less evenly distributed and the authors claim there will be wilder swings between wet and dry seasons. The authors do not know how the additional stress will impact he survival of the species however they do think it will have a negative impact on health, reproductive rates and mortality.

Population declines

Even if climate change and the impact on stress level does not result in population declines, it will most certainly further compound the other threats mountain gorillas face. Since multiple factors are acting simultaneously, the amount of psychological stress faced by individuals will profoundly change and that could have a detrimental effect short term and long term on population size.

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