Climate Change and Wildlife

Many species of animals are highly adapted to the environments in which they live. Changes in the
environment can pose serious problems to the animals especially if the change takes place over a
relatively short period of time. There is not enough time for them to adapt to the environmental
changes taking place. Climate change will therefore affect the size and distribution of various animal
populations. This in turn will have implications for the entire ecosystem.

In 1999, the Norwich Conference (convened by the WWF, English Nature, The Royal Society for the
Protection of Birds and World Conservation Monitoring Centre) stated that:

"There is already clear evidence to show that wildlife from the poles to the tropics is being affected
by climate change. Species migrations, extinctions and changes in populations, range and seasonal and
reproductive behaviour are among the plethora of responses that have been recorded, and these are likely
to continue apace as climate continues to change in the decades to come."

Some examples include:

Sea Life


In November 2006, the Marine Climate Change Partnership, a coalition of experts from institutions
ranging from Cambridge University to the Met Office's Hadley Centre. reported that warmer water
plankton had shifted north by as much as 1000 kilometres.

As cold water plankton is an essential food source for the larvae of fish such as cod, a shortage
of this plankton will have obvious implications for fish stocks in the North Sea. This could lead
to the collapse of the already under threat North Sea Fishing industry.

Find out more here
Climate change already affecting UK's marine life-



As a result of an increase in water temperature off the the Irish Coast there has been an increase
in jellyfish, such as the mauve stinger jellyfish and even the portuguese man of war, and algae.
This in turn has attracted exotic warm water species swuch as the Ocean Sunfish and the leatherback
turtle. Other species attracted by warmer waters include tuna, triggerfish, slipper lobster and the
chinese mitten crab.

Find out more here
Increased jellyfish 'blooms' in UK attract endangered leatherback turtles- Daily Mail
Alien Invaders Land In Ireland



Since 1980 there has been about an 80% decrease in the number of krill, a small crustacean, in
Antarctic waters. The Krill feed on algae growing on the underside of sea ice and as this ice has
melted due to a temperature increase of about 2.5ºC over the last 50 years, the numbers of krill
have declined. This in turn has led to a decline in the number of krill dependent predators such
as whales, seals, penguins and other seabirds. This will also have implications for tourism. Fishing
will also be affected as the krill is also prey to a number of commercially fished species.

In 1997, Kenneth Coale, of Moss Landing Marine Laboratory stated that "Some people view krill as
the canary in the coal mine of global warming," It would appear that people above ground are a lot
slower than miners in heeding warning signs.

Find out more here
Antarctic krill populations decreasing- CNN
Whales losing blubber,-Guardian

Polar Bears

polar bears

Polar bears rely on drifting ice to hunt seals and are being affected by the diminishing pack ice.
The bears population has dropped 22% since the mid-1980's to about 20,000.

As a result of the decline the US Government has labelled the bears as ''threatened'' under the
Endangered Species Act. This means that US sports hunters can no longer hunt the bears. This means
a loss of CAN$30,000 per bear to Arctic peoples.

Find out more here
Polar Bears & Global Warming-video
Polar Bears and Global Warming
Polar Bears and Arctic Global Warming-video


holy blue butterfly

Butterflies are being seen as an indicator of climate change. In Ireland species such as the
Small Skipper have been discovered for the first time. Other species such as the Holly Blue
are becoming more common and are spreading northwards.

Find out more here
Butterflies and Moths Providing Early Proof of Climate Change
The State of Britain's Butterflies


golden toad

The Golden Toad from the Monteverde Cloud Forest Reserve in Costa Rica is probably the first
documented casualty of human induced climate change. This species, which is unique to the area,
is thought to have been extinct since 1990. It is believed that the Golden Toad was wiped out by
a fungus, chytridiomycosis, which tends to prosper in cool, moist weather. Allthough the bulk of
the increased temperatures of the region occurred at night, the days were cooler due to increased
cloud cover. Perfect conditions for the spread of the disease.

"Disease is the bullet killing frogs, but climate change is pulling the trigger"
Alan Pounds, Monteverde Cloud Forest Reserve

Find out more here
Climate claims the golden toad
Amphibian Declines in Costa Rica
Golden Toads and Climate Change

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