Climate Change and Biodiversity
Concentrations of greenhouse gases in the atmosphere are increasing, due to the emissions we produce. This is artificially intensifying the natural greenhouse effect on a global scale, leading to an overall warming of the global climate. The impacts of man-made emissions are particularly reflected in the warming of the lower parts of the atmosphere.
The rate of warming has evidently increased since the early 1990s, and forecasts suggest that it will continue to accelerate over the next century, leading to a rise in average global temperatures of several degrees. Climates are expected to become warmer in all regions of the globe, but this warming may be especially rapid in arctic regions.
Climate change will affect biodiversity
Rapid changes in the climate can seriously threaten biodiversity, since most species only have a limited capacity to adapt to dramatic changes in their environment. Climate change is rapidly becoming as significant a threat to biodiversity as the widespread habitat destruction caused by various human activities in recent decades. It is expected that climate change will lead to major geographical shifts in climatic and natural vegetation zones, leading to similar changes in the distributions of the characteristic species of these zones. Species will have to cope with the changing conditions, and are also likely to face competition from new species spreading into their environments.
Native species often struggle to compete with invasive species that may be better adapted to the new conditions. Invasive species can also bring in diseases that the native species may be poorly equipped to resist. The survival of native species may depend on their ability to move into new areas as rapidly as their preferred habitats shift geographically. This may particularly leave many arctic species in great difficulties, since their typical habitats may ultimately vanish altogether.
The most effective way to protect biodiversity against the impacts of climate change would be to reduce emissions of greenhouse gases rapidly and effectively. But even if this could be done, the positive impacts of reductions in emissions are only likely to become evident in the natural environment after a long time lag, so species will meanwhile have to strive to adapt to continuous changes in climatic conditions. In nature conservation work it is vital to give greater consideration to the capacities of species and habitats to adapt to climate change.
Top of the page