How does climate change affect biodiversity?

This article discusses what is climate change and biodiversity, and how the former affects the latter. Furthermore, we also discuss the various causes for climate change.

How does climate change affect biodiversity

Each biome has been affected differently due to climate change. Climate change on biodiversity heavily for the following regions:

  • Polar regions and high altitudes
  • Oceans
  • Tropics

What is climate change?

You may be aware of the current weather conditions. The variations we see and experience outside from day to day are referred to as weather.

One day it may rain, and the next it may be bright. It becomes frigid at times. It may get rather heated at times. The weather varies from location to area as well. 

In one location, people may be wearing shorts and playing outside. People far away may be shovelling snow at the same moment.

Climate refers to a location’s typical weather. Seasonal climates can be rather diverse. In the summer, a location may be primarily warm and dry. In the winter, the same location may be cold and rainy. Climates differ depending on where you are.

A shift in a location’s typical weather is referred to as climate change. This might be due to a shift in the amount of rain that a location receives on a yearly basis. 

It might also be a variation in a location’s normal temperature over the course of a month or season.

Climate change is a term that refers to changes in the Earth’s climate. This might be due to a shift in the Earth’s normal temperature. It might also be a shift in where rain and snow fall on Earth.

In just a few hours, the weather may shift drastically. Climate change can take hundreds of years or perhaps millions of years.

What causes climate change?

The climate of the Earth is always changing. The Earth’s climate has been warmer in the past than it is currently. There have been colder days in the past. Thousands or millions of years can pass during these periods.

Earth scientists see that the planet’s climate is warming. In the previous 100 years, the Earth’s temperature has risen by around one degree Fahrenheit. 

This may not appear to be a significant amount of money. Small variations in the Earth’s temperature, on the other hand, can have significant consequences.

Some impacts have already begun to manifest. Some snow and ice have melted as the Earth’s temperature has warmed. Oceans have also risen as a result of global warming. It also shifts the time of certain plants’ growth.

However, since the onset of the Industrial Revolution, climate change is predominantly driven by anthropogenic (i.e., human-based) activities.

Activities such as burning of fossil fuels, deforestation, urbanisation, and so on contribute heavily to the emission of greenhouse gases in the Earth’s atmosphere.

Amongst these gases, the most notorious is carbon dioxide. Ever since the industrial revolution, its concentration in the atmosphere has gone up from 280ppm (parts per million) to 420ppm.

Due to the greenhouse effect, the Earth’s temperature has been rising steadily, a phenomenon known as “Global Warming”.

Due to this, rapid melting of glaciers and ice sheets, warming and subsequent acidification of oceans, and many such phenomena have taken place which in turn have adversely affected biodiversity.

How does climate change affect biodiversity

Climate change has been adversely affecting biodiversity. Each biome has been affected differently due to climate change. We shall discuss the effect of climate change on biodiversity for the following regions:

  • Polar regions and high altitudes
  • Oceans
  • Tropics

Polar regions and high altitudes

Warming has been fastest in the Arctic, Antarctica, and high latitudes, and this trend is expected to continue.

It is not simply a decrease in the area of sea ice in the Arctic, but also in its thickness and age. Less ice equals a lower reflecting surface, which causes faster melting. 

The fast drop outperforms even scientific predictions, as detailed in the climate change introductory section of this site. The likelihood of ice-free summers in the Arctic Ocean means the extinction of a whole biome in terms of biodiversity.

Furthermore, whole species assemblages have evolved to live on top of or under ice, ranging from the algae that grow on the underside of multi-year ice, accounting for up to 25% of the Arctic Ocean’s primary production, through invertebrates, birds, fish, and marine mammals further up the food chain. 

Even though the famous polar bear at the top of that food chain receives more media attention, it is not the only animal under danger.

Oceans

We usually hear about changes to land and the planet’s surface or atmosphere when discussing the effects of climate change. However, the majority of the heat is absorbed by the seas, which are undergoing significant biological changes.

Rapidly growing greenhouse gas concentrations are pushing ocean systems toward circumstances that haven’t been seen in millions of years, posing the possibility of permanent ecological change.

Fundamental processes are being disrupted, community assemblages are being reconfigured, and ecological surprises are anticipated as a result of anthropogenic climate change in the ocean.

The impacts of increased greenhouse gases — particularly carbon dioxide — on the oceans may be enormous, although receiving less mainstream media attention.

The basic chemistry of ocean acidification is well established, according to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), a US government organisation.

These are the three key ideas:

1. More CO2 in the atmosphere means more CO2 in the ocean; 

2. Atmospheric CO2 dissolves in the ocean, making it more acidic; and 

3. Changes in the chemistry of the oceans disrupt the ability of plants and animals in the sea to make calcium carbonate shells and skeletons, while dissolving shells that have already formed.

Oceans can absorb part of the extra CO2 created by human activities, according to scientists. This has kept the planet colder than it could have been if these gases had stayed in the atmosphere.

However, the increased CO2 being absorbed is causing ocean acidification: when CO2 combines with water, it forms a weak acid called carbonic acid, which changes the chemistry of seawater. 

The water is 30 percent more acidic than it was before the industrial revolution, according to the Global Biodiversity Outlook study, depleting carbonate ions, which are the building blocks for many marine creatures.

This acidification has severely threatened coral reefs, as well as the species codependent on the reefs for their existence, thereby threatening a majority of marine organisms.

Tropical regions

The response of biodiversity to long-term warming in a tropical habitat unaffected by human activity may be less negative than commonly believed, at least for some components of biodiversity.

Many lowland tropical species may be unable to survive with even mild near-term temperature rises, according to recent forecasts, highlighting significant uncertainty regarding the consequences of rising temperatures on biodiversity.

Dry seasons that are becoming more severe might increase the effects of land-use change on tropical forest biodiversity. In many tropical woods, vehicle mobility is disrupted by impassable roads during the rainy season. This means that as the dry season lengthens, the economic feasibility of forest colonisation and logging may improve, making many of the last remaining “remote” forests vulnerable to large-scale exploitation.

Indeed, in the Amazon, the intensity of dry seasons is already a significant, positive predictor of deforestation pressure, showing that drying trends in some tropical forests might enhance their susceptibility.

The next 10 years will determine how far humanity can mitigate the potentially fatal impacts of climate change and rapidly rising land usage on tropical biodiversity. 

These two risks, we believe, should not be tackled separately. Ecosystem resilience to climate change is harmed by human activities such as deforestation and habitat fragmentation. 

Climate change, in turn, amplifies the damaging effects of human-lit fires and makes habitat loss easier. 

Conclusion

Climate change is a term that refers to changes in the Earth’s climate. This might be due to a shift in the Earth’s normal temperature. It might also be a shift in where rain and snow fall on Earth.

Climate change is predominantly driven by anthropogenic (i.e., human-based) activities.

Activities such as burning of fossil fuels, deforestation, urbanisation, and so on contribute heavily to the emission of greenhouse gases in the Earth’s atmosphere.

Climate change not only affects humans, but severely affects biodiversity. 

Climate change causes melting of glaciers and ice sheets, warming and acidification of oceans, and habitat loss in the tropics, thereby adversely affecting countless animal and plant species.

For easing these synergistic threats to global biodiversity, concerted efforts at the national, regional, and international levels, engaging key stakeholders and a simultaneous emphasis on numerous conservation concerns, are critical.

FAQs

What is the difference between climate variability and climate change?

Variations in the mean state and other climatic data are referred to as climate variability (standard deviations, the occurrence of extremes, etc.). Climate change, on the other hand, refers to any change in climate through time, whether caused by natural or artificial sources.

How is climate change affecting people?

Climate change is hurting people all around the world, from straining agricultural systems to making places less livable. 

You may have observed how weather patterns are altering around you, or how storms are becoming more common and violent in the spring. 

Perhaps you’re dealing with more severe flooding or wildfires in your area. Rising sea levels are causing streets to flood during high tides in several regions, resulting in “sunny day flooding.” 

Because the sea level has risen to the point where their original position is no longer livable, several whole coastal settlements in Alaska are being relocated.

Climate change also heightens the risk of human-caused conflict due to a lack of resources such as food and water, which becomes less reliable as growing seasons shift and seasons become less predictable.

Does deforestation contribute to climate change?

Deforestation does, in fact, contribute to climate change in a few ways. Because forests are one of our most significant natural carbon storage systems, they lose their potential to store greenhouse gases when they are chopped down.

Even more carbon is released into the atmosphere when trees are burned. Forests are among the most effective “natural climate solutions” available on the globe. 

If we can reduce or stop deforestation and manage natural land such that it is healthy, we could accomplish up to one third of the emission reductions needed by 2030 to avoid global temperatures from increasing more than 2°C (3.6°C).

That’s the same as putting an end to all oil burning across the planet.

What are solutions to climate change?

To avoid the worst effects of climate change, the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) recommends that carbon emissions be reduced to the point where global warming is limited to no more than 1.5 degrees Celsius (3 degrees Fahrenheit).

To do so, we must commit as a planet to achieving net zero carbon emissions by 2050. This is no minor task, and achieving the goal will need a combination of solutions.

All sectors of our economy will need to move away from carbon-emitting fossil fuels, expand our use of sustainable energy sources like wind and solar, harness the power of nature to trap carbon, and implement carbon-capture-and-storage technology.

This transition will happen much faster and more cost-effectively if governments enact an economy-wide price on carbon.

References

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