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Climate change is forcing many species of monkeys and lemurs that normally live high in trees spend more time on the ground, a new study has found.
Experts say that global warming and deforestation are driving the primates to the forest floor more frequently so they can search for food, water and shelter.
Spending more time on the ground may help to protect some species from some of the effects of warming temperatures.
However, scientists have warned that not all species are able to adapt to this change, leaving some potentially more in danger than others.
In the study, published in the journal Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, an international team of scientists looked at more than 150,000 hours of data on several different lemur and monkey species at various sites in the Americas and Madagascar.
They found that among many tree-living primates, the hotter the environment, the longer they spent on the ground.
The same was true in areas which were more deforested – fewer trees made it warmer so the animals largely adapted by moving down from the trees.
Researchers also looked at others factors too, such as whether humans might have an impact on this behaviour.
If the monkeys lived near to roads or where humans lived – in places where they were more likely to come into contact with humans – then the opposite was true and the monkeys spent more time in trees and were less likely to come down to the forest floor.
Experts added that this could suggest that the presence of humans could get in the way of these species being able to adapt to climate change.
Scientists said that for these species, conservation plans would be needed to help ensure their survival.
A lot of people consider climate change the most important crisis that the world is facing today.
But what is it? And why are so many scientists, campaigners and politicians concerned about its effects?
It is a complicated issue – but a very important one.
What is climate change?
When we talk about climate change, we are talking about global changes in the Earth’s average temperature.
The Earth’s average temperature moves up and down naturally, but it has been increasing more rapidly than it usually does.
This change is impacting on the planet’s environment – which is everything natural around us; rivers, trees, plants, animals… everything!
Scientists say many of the changes to the Earth’s climate are caused by human activity – this means things that humans are doing.
Some of those things are:
Burning of oil, coal and gas – These resources are called fossil fuels – they are used to power factories, buildings and transportation. When burnt they release substances into the atmosphere, including a gas called carbon dioxide, which trap heat from the sun and warm up the Earth. This is called the greenhouse effect.
Waste – The way waste is disposed of often adds to these harmful emissions. Even food waste creates another greenhouse gas called methane when it rots.
Deforestation and urbanization – Urbanisation is when more people start living in cities, and deforestation is when a forest or tree-covered area is turned into something else (for example a farm or space for houses). Trees help us by absorbing carbon dioxide – but they release it back into the air again when they are cut down.
Population growth – This means the growing number of people in the world. Did you know in 1960 there were only 3 billion people in the world, whereas there are currently more than 7 billion people who all need food to eat and places to live!
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