Climate change is considered the chief threat to humans, flora, and fauna. Its already witnessed effects are rising seas, catastrophic wildfires, and water shortages. These changes are not only having a dramatic impact on diverse ecosystems but also on the wildlife that calls these places home. Increasing global temperature means that ecosystems will change; some species are being forced out of their habitats (possibly to extinction) because of changing conditions, while others are flourishing. Other effects of global warming include lessened snow cover, rising sea levels, and weather changes, which may influence human activities and the ecosystem.
Both animals and birds are an important part of ecosystem, risk of their survival also pose risks for the ecosystem. Here we are going to look some of the impacts of climate change on animals and birds.
Animals affected by climate change
Climate change affects animals species in the following ways:
- As they have to adapt to the changing climate their habitats become less comfortable.
- In a changing environment, animals have to deal with water and air pollution that can affect the food they need for survival.
- For their survival, they also have to alter their feeding and breeding patterns.
If these animal species can’t migrate to areas with a more favorable climate, their fate might be sealed. Below is the list of some animal species, and how they are affected by climate change.
Polar bears were listed as a threatened species under the Endangered Species Act. Their survival is at high risk. Climate change has reduced the amount of Arctic sea ice. This has affected their main source of food and diminished their natural habitat. Walruses and other Arctic species are facing similar challenges as summer sea ice continues to retreat.
For the Asian elephant’s survival, a great amount of freshwater is required. Climate change and global warming have reduced the water for them. High temperature has particularly affected their lives.
Snowshoe hares blend in with the snow by turning their color white. Climate change is greatly affecting these species as the snow in some areas is melting leaving hares exposed in snow-less fields. This increased vulnerability is a great cause of declines in hare populations.
Rising sea-level increased storms and changing temperatures and other impacts of climate change have made sea turtles species vulnerable. Their survival is at higher risk.
Caribou are used to travel long distances in search of food. The rising temperature and wildfires in Alaska change caribou’s habitat and food sources. Ultimately, this will affect hunters who rely on caribou for nutritional, cultural, and economic reasons.
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These birds live in the Antarctic and feed on krill (found under the ice sheets). As the ice melts, krill populations decrease and the penguins have to migrate from their natural habitat in an attempt to find alternative food sources. This makes it harder for them to settle down to breed. It’s pushed some of them up the endangered animal species list and seen others swiftly following suit.
Its habitat is eucalyptus forests and the main food is leaves or trees but too much carbon dioxide in the air changes the chemical composition of eucalyptus leaves. This makes them toxic to koalas and threatening these highly specialized marsupials with extinction
These are just a few examples of the animals, many other animals like penguins, pikas, and moose are also facing challenges in their survival.
Birds affected by climate change
According to the study, birds have not adopted their breeding cycle to the new climate conditions, which are marked by global change. In a future time, the progressive rise of sea temperatures could create a lack of synchrony between the breeding and feeding period and the stages in which preys are more abundant in oceans. Some species can react to climate change by fleeing. Researchers have calculated that on average species move nearly 17 kilometers towards the North and South Poles every 10 years searching for a more suitable habitat.
Climate change affects animals species in the following ways:
- This can disrupt their reproduction, the timing of breeding, and reduce survival or fitness.
- This effect their migration patterns.
- This can also disrupt their maintenance i.e. the energy needed by organisms to maintain their basal levels of activity and condition.
Below is the example of birds facing climate changes.
Puffins are the colorful birds familiar to miniature penguins. They are having difficulty finding their major food sources of white hake and herring. The adult puffins compensate by feeding their young butterfish but young ones are unable to swallow these large fish and many die due to starvation. Scientists believe the birds starved to death when the fish they eat migrated north with rising sea temperatures.
Due to climate change, bald eagles face more challenges. The changing climate threatens this iconic bird’s survival. The warming temperature is bringing danger to 314 species of birds. According to a new study from the National Audubon Society, these birds could lose from 50 to 100% of their range.
Pelicans and their young ones face serious threats due to changing weather patterns such as increased storms and prolonged colder temperatures. Strong storm events can cause direct mortality to young nestlings.
The burrowing owl is a small, ground-dwelling species that live throughout North American deserts and grasslands. Research has shown a decline in the burrowing owl population since the 1960s. During heavy rainfall events, they lose their nests, and flooding can cause irreparable damage to these. Furthermore, in long periods of rainy weather, adults sometimes fail to bring enough food to their chicks.
Changes in climate affect the production of ripe fruit for wood thrush. This decrease in the availability of fruit and other food resources. Hence they will remain undernourished and suffer great mortality.
In general the more adaptable of species the greater its chances of survival but some species react more sensitively to change than others. The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change predicts that one in three species will die out if global warming continues. All of us should play our individual role in controlling such activities that contribute to climate change. So that the survival of these birds and animals can be ensured.
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