Climate Change Could Lead to Major Venomous Snake Migrations, Study Says

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The range of venomous snakes could look a lot different globally by 2070, according to a new study. Climate change is leading to habitat loss, which is likely to push venomous snakes into new regions.

An international research team, led by professor Pablo Ariel Martinez of the Federal University of Sergipe, studied data on 209 venomous snake species from around the world. The ranges of some venomous snake species could double by 2070, according to the study, which was published in the journal Lancet Planetary Health.

“Climate change is expected to have profound effects over the years. We are talking about consequences such as the loss of biodiversity and changes in the poisoning patterns of humans and domestic animals,” Martinez said in a statement.

The west African gaboon viper (Bitis rhinoceros) could see a 251% increase in habitable range by 2070, followed by a 136% potential increase for asp vipers (Vipera aspis) and a 118% potential increase for horned vipers (Vipera ammodytes).

However, not all venomous species will see an increase in range. Several species — including green bush vipers (Atheris squamigera), rock vipers (Montivipera xanthina), hognosed pit vipers (Porthidium nasutum), and pygmy copperheads (Austrelaps labialis) — are expected to lose more than 70% of their potential range, which would also affect the snakes’ native ecosystems.

In addition to analyzing the future distribution of different venomous snakes, the researchers reviewed which countries are likely to see an influx of venomous snakes as well as what areas of the world will be more vulnerable to venomous snake bites.

According to the findings, countries including Niger, Namibia, China, Nepal and Myanmar may see a rise in the number of venomous snake species in their countries, as the snakes may migrate from neighboring countries. But the greatest losses of venomous snake species and their habitats are likely to occur in South America and southern Africa.

The researchers also predicted that southeast Asia and Africa — especially Uganda, Kenya, Bangladesh, India and Thailand — may become the most vulnerable to increased conflicts between humans and the snakes. That’s because these regions, which can be important for agriculture, could also become more suitable for snake habitats amid climate change. In particular, flooding events can push snakes closer to human communities as they seek dry places, and this can increase risk of snake bites.

“As more land is converted for agriculture and livestock rearing, it destroys and fragments the natural habitats that snakes rely on,” Martinez and co-author Talita Ferreira Amado, of the German Centre for Integrative Biodiversity Research, told The Guardian. “However, some generalist snake species, especially those of medical concern, can adapt to agricultural landscapes and even thrive in certain crop fields or livestock areas that provide food sources like rodents.”

The study authors stressed that climate change is leading to increased habitat loss for these snakes, and the results threaten snakes, ecosystems and public health.

“Our research shows that when venomous snakes start showing up in new places, it’s a wake-up call for us to start thinking about how we can keep ourselves and our environment safe,” the study authors said, as reported by The Guardian.

This article originally appeared on EcoWatch and was syndicated by MediaFeed.

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This article originally appeared on EcoWatch and was syndicated by MediaFeed.

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