|March 11, 2019|
Is climate change causing extinction?
|We often think of climate change as being incredibly harmful for the future of the human race, but one aspect that has become increasingly prescient is the fact that it is beginning to cause irreversible damage to the biodiversity of the species of our planet. Climate change has been observed in nearly every ecosystem on the planet, with some areas being altered faster than others. |
With this in mind, it begs the question of how it will affect the millions of species living on Earth. Yes, the knowledge of climate change affecting species like polar bears, sea turtles, and coral reefs has long become mainstream, but now, we are beginning to see signs that it is impacting nearly every living thing on the planet.
A recent study, conducted by researchers at the University of Florida, concluded that current global warming rates by just a single degree Celsius have left a lasting impact on 77 of 94 different ecological processes, including species genetics, seasonal responses, distribution, and physical traits such as body shape and size.
Some examples include pink salmon lacking the proper encoded genes necessary for beginning their migration, or alpine chipmunks found in the Yellowstone Mountains to have deformed skulls shapes due to increased climate pressure. While some have pointed out that these changes are the result of genetic adaptation, it does not conclude that they are conducive for future ability to thrive in a warmer world.
While the species observed by researchers have shown physical and genetic changes, others are simply vanishing. A study published in PLOS Biology found that more than 450 plants and animals have undergone local extinctions due to climate change. If nothing is done, these species face the risk of becoming extinct at the global level. John Wiens, a researcher at the University of Arizona, and the study's lead author said: "If global warming continues, species that cannot change or move quickly enough may go globally extinct."
One species, however, has missed that chance. Early this year, scientists announced that the Bramble Cay melomys, a small rodent located on a single island off Australia, are likely the first mammal to become globally extinct due to climate change in the modern age. The island in which this species lived on is now, at most, 10 feet above seal level, with rising water levels devastating the ecosystem of this small mammal.
We as a species have come to the realization that if climate change is not significantly halted, we will bear witness to the devastating effects it will have on both our health and the vitality of the many species we share this planet with.