The Effects of Climate Change on Animals

The Effects of Climate Change on Animals

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Climate change has a substantial impact on the environment at large. From polar ice caps melting to the increase in various natural disasters, there is a clear and observable negative effect of climate change caused by human interference. Changes in the environment due to climate change and other human interference such as logging can detrimentally affect animals. Approximately 18% of all land species on the planet are at risk of extinction in the next few decades, with a whopping 30% of insect pollinators and salamanders being at risk.

How Do Humans Cause The Extinction Of Animals?

Human-caused climate change affects animals in many ways, from melting polar ice caps to acidification from the absorption of carbon dioxide into the ocean. There are also other ways that humans negatively affect animals, such as logging and deforestation that can cause animals living in these areas to no longer have suitable habitats to live in. 

Another way that humans sometimes contribute to species extinction is through the accidental or purposeful introduction of invasive species into different habitats. An example of this is the lionfish, which is native to the Indian and Pacific Oceans and the Red Sea but has become an invasive species on the East Coast of the USA, Mexico, and the Caribbean. This invasion is thought to be caused by the release of pet lionfish into the environment. These lionfish succeed very well in this new environment and are causing the extinction of some native species. In an attempt to counteract the invasion of the lionfish, a start-up called Inversa has been turning lionfish skin into leather, serving the dual purpose of removing lionfish from the area and creating clothing.

5 Species Affected By Climate Change

  1. Bramble Cay melomys: this is a species of rodent living on the small island of Bramble Cay, in the Great Barrier Reef. This rodent recently went extinct as a result of rising sea levels and it seems to be the first mammal to go extinct from climate change.
  2. Golden Toad: This Costa Rican orange-yellow toad recently went extinct due to changing weather conditions that led fungal diseases being more likely to occur in the toads. 
  3. Coral: climate change leads to bleaching, disease, and death of coral. This is due to the excess production of carbon dioxide due to human activities, leading to carbon dioxide absorption into the ocean, changing its chemical composition by acidifying it. Excess heat associated with climate change also contributes to coral bleaching.
  4. Chinook Salmon: this fish species has become endangered due to a combination of fishing, habitat degradation, and dams that prevent them from migrating.
  5. Green Sea Turtle: the sex of these turtles is determined by the temperature of the eggs as they are being incubated. This is called Temperature-Dependent Sex determination (TSD), and this is common in turtles, alligators, and crocodiles. Due to climate change, most newly hatched turtles are female, meaning that there is a scarcity of males that threatens the future of the species.

Counteracting Human Effects: The Reef 2050 Long-Term Sustainability Plan

The Great Barrier Reef has struggled over the last hundred years from rising carbon dioxide levels, which causes ocean acidification, and climate change in general, which causes more extreme weather events. Worldwide rising average temperatures mean that marine animals must move to cooler habitats, which causes increased competition in these cooler areas. A long-term sustainability plan was created with goals to be accomplished by 2050. This plan has an approximate budget of A$2 billion for the next decade and will aim to protect the reef and minimize harm to it as a result of climate change. 

Resulting changes include (but are not limited to):

  • Banning disposal of material from capital dredging projects in the Great Barrier Reef Marine Park
  • Enhancing ship safety and environmental protection with the North-East Shipping Management Plan in 2014
  • Stopped and reversed the water quality decline from agriculture, reducing pesticide, sediment, nitrogen, and inorganic nitrogen loads.
  • New laws against poaching protected turtles and dugongs.

These changes and other proposed and in progress changes aim to protect the reef from damage, protecting its animals and plants.

Concluding Thoughts

Many animal species are at risk of extinction due to the changes associated with human interference and climate change. Various factors such as logging and carbon dioxide emissions have a detrimental effect on wildlife. Protecting wildlife is extremely important, both because it keeps the ecosystem and food chain intact, and because the negative effect of climate change on animals is indicative of issues that will also negatively impact humans. It is imperative that we create reasonable plans that minimize the negative impact of humans on the environment to help wildlife as well as ourselves.

References

Climate change. (n.d.). Great Barrier Reef Foundation. https://www.barrierreef.org/the-reef/threats/climate-change

Golden Toad – Extinction. (2021, December 20). Extinction. https://www.extinction.photo/species/golden-toad/

Halting the extinction crisis. (n.d.). https://www.biologicaldiversity.org/programs/biodiversity/elements_of_biodiversity/extinction_crisis/index.html

Highlights of the Reef 2050 Long-Term Sustainability Plan – DCCEEW. (2023, September 29). https://www.dcceew.gov.au/parks-heritage/great-barrier-reef/publications/highlights-long-term-sustainability-plan

How does climate change affect coral reefs? (n.d.). https://oceanservice.noaa.gov/facts/coralreef-climate.html

Kaiho, K. (2023). An animal crisis caused by pollution, deforestation, and warming in the late 21st century and exacerbation by nuclear war. Heliyon, 9(4), e15221. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.heliyon.2023.e15221

Peterson, B. (2024, May 14). Sustainable fabrics can help fashion rid itself of a waste problem. Washington Post. https://www.washingtonpost.com/business/interactive/2024/sustainability-fashion-fabric-biodegradable/

Tell Me About: Invasive Lionfish. (2023, December 7). Thompson Earth Systems Institute. https://www.floridamuseum.ufl.edu/earth-systems/blog/tell-me-about-invasive-lionfish/

What are the long-term effects of climate change? | U.S. Geological Survey. (2017, July 30). https://www.usgs.gov/faqs/what-are-long-term-effects-climate-change

What causes a sea turtle to be born male or female? (n.d.). https://oceanservice.noaa.gov/facts/temperature-dependent.html

About Post Author

Aliyah Knetsch

Aliyah is a fourth year BSc Psychology student at the University of Waterloo, and she is a Research Assistant with EnvironFocus.
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