SEATTLE, Aug. 29 (UPI) -- As the planet continues to warm and regional climates shift, animals will seek out more comfortable environs. A team of scientists from the University of Washington and the Nature Conservancy has developed a new interactive map to predict the paths of migrating animals during climate change.
Throughout Earth's history, animals have migrated and populations have shifted, but movements were more fluid before much of the planet became marked by human development. Today, cities, highways and agriculture limit where animals can move.
The new map takes these factors into consideration and even employs ideas from electronic circuit theory to visualize climate change-induced migrations.
"This is the best visualization of any of these studies we've done. It's much more compelling than our static maps," Joshua Lawler, a professor at Washington's School of Environmental and Forest Sciences, said in a news release. "The flow diagram really makes the data much more accessible."
Lawler and his colleagues first began plotting probable migration routes in 2013, pinpointing likely areas of refuge for displaced species as well as the most likely paths to safety.
They created motionless maps using their models, but recently decided to lend their work movement.
The new map of the Americas show the animated paths mammals, birds and amphibians are likely to take in search of cooler climes -- both among northern latitudes and higher elevations.
Once animated, the map yielded even more striking patterns, with the species of North America clearly moving northward along conduits carved out by the Rocky Mountains and the Appalachians. In South America, the most apparent pattern is the westward exodus from the Amazon.
"It was shocking to see these features emerge so clearly. You can really see them when the data are visualized like this," Lawler said.