Climate Change in Michigan: Right Now

Woodland deer mouse. Courtesy U of M.

Woodland deer mouse. Courtesy U of M.

Lots of people are leaving Michigan due to the economic climate. A group of university researchers says small mammals also are moving north in the state, apparently due to climate change. Next stop, Canada?

Researchers from the University of Michigan, Michigan State University and Miami University in Ohio published their findings in the June issue of the journal Global Change Biology.

The work is significant, says lead author Philip Myers, a U of M professor of ecology and evolutionary biology, because most climate studies are predictive, or done in remote environments like the Arctic.

“But this study documents things that are happening right now, here at home,” Myers said in a news release.

The southern animals on the move, like certain species of mice, squirrels, chipmunks and opossums, are replacing their northern counterparts — other species of mice, voles, squirrels and chipmunks.

This could turn out to be no big deal, or “catastrophic,” Myers says.

The researchers used extensive records from museums and other sources to track the mammal movements in areas like the Upper Peninsula.

Federal data from 16 weather stations in the Upper Peninsula showed a significant increase in the average annual minimum daily temperatures from 1970 to 2007, the researchers say.

It will be interesting to see the response to this research from the folks in Michigan who make decisions about greenhouse gas emissions — like the governor, who has been criticized for putting a near-moratorium on new coal plants, and legislators.

State leaders are under pressure to create jobs and protect the environment.

A Climate Action Council established by the governor issued interim recommendations (.pdf) for greenhouse gas reduction in March 2009.

At the top of the list: Achieve a 20 percent reduction in greenhouse gases below 2005 levels by 2020 and an 80 percent reduction below 2005 levels by 2050.

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