Climate Change and Biodiversity: What Is the Connection?
We are all talking, nowadays, about biodiversity and climate change, and there are many international conventions regarding the two of them. Most people acknowledge that we are undergoing a period of climate changes, and that is, at least partially, imputable to our industrial activities.
It is no secret that carbon dioxide, a byproduct of burning any kind of fuel, is a greenhouse gas and an increase in its atmospheric concentration leads to global warming. We are aware of the effects that this phenomenon has on our society, but what about its effects on wildlife?
How Does Climate Change Affect Biodiversity?
Well, there are several ways:
- The shrinking of the ice sheets means serious troubles for the local animals, such as polar bears. It is not only about the big mammals, but also about the changes in the polar marine life, including plankton, fish etc.
- The flooding of the coastal areas due to the rising sea level will have a devastating impact on the communities living in littoral ecosystems. Beaches, deltas and estuaries host a rich wildlife that is under serious threat. Not to mention entire islands or archipelagos, such as the Maldives, under the menace of total destruction.
- Ocean acidification is due to the reaction between a growing level of carbon dioxide and seawater. Carbonic acid consumes the calcium in the water, and calcium is essential for many plankton organisms in order to produce their shells: from microalgae to crustaceans.
- Ocean stratification is caused by an increase in the temperature gradient between the upper, warm layers and the lower, cold ones. It greatly affects nutrient supply to phytoplankton and, thus, the overall biodiversity.
- Ocean anoxia. When the water gets warmer, the amount of dissolved oxygen decreases. Insufficient oxygen will cause growing “dead zones” in the lower parts of the marine basins.
- Dying corals. Coral reefs host an incredible variety of life forms. The entire basis for these ecosystems is represented by the tiny animals producing the reef. But they depend on symbiotic algae to get food and, thus, they need light. Corals cannot grow at depths below a certain limit and a steep increase in the ocean’s level only means mass mortality.
- Desertification. Turning wildlife-rich forests, savannahs and steppes into arid regions is another phenomenon partially imputable to Global warming.
- Extreme weather phenomena like hurricanes, severe drought and wildfires increase their rate due to climate changes. They not only affect humans, but also have a significant impact on the local biodiversity.