At least 10,967 species are affected due to climate change (1), as stated in the IUCN Red List of Threatened Species (2). Biodiversity does alter by the globally changing climate, and the scale influenced is no less than that to humans. While we are joining forces to create a better environment, animal habitat and lives should not be omitted as well.
How biodiversity is affected by climate change?
Biodiversity is affected by climate change in a broad spectrum. For marine creatures, one dominant result is ocean acidification. It refers to the process of the formation of carbonic acid in the sea, which helps decrease the ocean’s pH value (3). So you may ask where is the carbonic acid coming from. In fact, carbonic acid is a product of carbon dioxide, which is substantially generated by human activity like transportation and manufacturing purposes. According to Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution, about half of the anthropogenic (human-caused) carbon dioxide in the ocean is found in the upper 400 meters of the water column, while the other half has penetrated into the lower thermocline and deep ocean (4). The devastating effects of ocean acidification include the loss of species that the example of Pteropod (sea butterfly) is illustrated below.
Photo of Pteropod
Pteropods are a group of planktonic gastropods that live near sea water level and have a length similar to the size of a pea. They are widely regarded as biological indicators for assessing the impacts of ocean acidification since they are susceptible to dissolution (5). Research discovered that with the projected pH and carbonate levels at the year 2100, Pteropods would be fully dissolved after having been born for 45 days (6). As the main food source for numerous living organisms in the ocean, this phenomenon poses a real menace to the biodiversity of marine life. The decrease in a lifetime means predators have less time and opportunity to search for Pteropods, and their target will turn to other marine creatures, which affects the eco-system and food chain. By using Pteropod as a case in point, ocean acidification could be detrimental to biodiversity.
Another disastrous effect brought by climate change on biodiversity is the change of habits. In general, the difference in species interactions will be mediated by the direct effects of environmental change on physiology and behavior. These two parameters define where individuals of a given species will be, when they are there (7), also their characteristics. For instance, climate change may likely alter the migratory ways and periods for species that use seasonal wetlands (e.g., migratory birds) and track seasonal variations in vegetation (e.g., herbivores). The living habit varies with respect to the climate occasionally. Juvenile Red Deer (see figure below) in Scotland grew faster in warmer springs, resulting in increasing adult body size (8). Asian Elephants (see figure below) are forced to leave their original habitat as warmer temperature leads to the ease for invasive plants to thrive, which will outgrow their main food sources like bamboo leaves and bananas (9). Not only have animals’ appearance and diet changed, but their life could also be put at stake.
Photo of Red Deer
Photo of Asian Elephants
Solutions to the damage of biodiversity
In view of the worsening biodiversity, the European Commission (EU) devised the ‘Biodiversity strategy for 2030’, which mapped out a comprehensive, ambitious, and long-term plan to protect nature and reverse the degradation of ecosystems. It lists out different actions, implementation, timelines, and other essential areas to build resilience to future threats like biodiversity on climate change (10). Conservation modeling and monitoring systems are also deployed. Even though there are certain existing policies and strategies to tackle the recent climate emergency, the influence of the changing climate on biodiversity is yet to be solved.
Species and climate change. IUCN. (2021, October 22). Retrieved January 30, 2022, from https://www.iucn.org/resources/issues-briefs/species-and-climate-change
The IUCN Red List of Threatened Species. IUCN Red List of Threatened Species. (n.d.). Retrieved January 30, 2022, from https://www.iucnredlist.org/
Ocean acidification. IUCN. (2019, April 26). Retrieved January 30, 2022, from https://www.iucn.org/resources/issues-briefs/ocean-acidification
Ocean acidification. Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution. (2019, February 6). Retrieved January 30, 2022, from https://www.whoi.edu/know-your-ocean/ocean-topics/ocean-chemistry/ocean-acidification/
Peijnenburg, K. T., Janssen, A. W., Wall-Palmer, D., Goetze, E., Maas, A. E., Todd, J. A., & Marlétaz, F. (2020). The origin and diversification of pteropods precede past perturbations in the Earth’s carbon cycle. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, 117(41), 25609–25617. https://doi.org/10.1073/pnas.1920918117
National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, U.S. Department of Commerce. (2020, April 1). Ocean acidification. Retrieved January 31, 2022, from https://www.noaa.gov/education/resource-collections/ocean-coasts/ocean-acidification
Gunderson, A. R., Tsukimura, B., & Stillman, J. H. (2017). Indirect effects of global change: From physiological and behavioral mechanisms to ecological consequences. Integrative and Comparative Biology, 57(1), 48–54. https://doi.org/10.1093/icb/icx056
Muluneh, M. G. (2021). Impact of climate change on Biodiversity and Food Security: A global perspective—a review article. Agriculture & Food Security, 10(1). https://doi.org/10.1186/s40066-021-00318-5
Lauwrens, M. (2021, September 3). Six animals affected by climate change. Retrieved February 2, 2022, from https://www.gvi.co.uk/blog/6-animal-species-and-how-they-are-affected-by-climate-change/
European Commission. (n.d.). Biodiversity strategy for 2030. Retrieved February 2, 2022, from https://ec.europa.eu/environment/strategy/biodiversity-strategy-2030_en