Anthropogenic climate change is hindering a wide variety of organisms, their genetics and species’ habitats – in short, biodiversity. The accelerated pace of human development and its impacts on biodiversity which sustain it, is both massive and significant. Biodiversity is inextricably linked to climate; climate change is both a cause and an effect of biodiversity change. Climate change jeopardizes the services offered by the global ecosystems that have been taken for granted. Let us examine how climate change is affecting specific ecosystems.
Agricultural ecosystems are spread around the globe; hence, the impacts of climate change on agricultural biodiversity will be diverse and extensive. Climate change is threatening plant growth and production due to proliferation of pests and diseases, wildfires, yield reduction due to extreme weather, and changes in rainfall patterns.
Other risks include nutrients leaching from the soil during intense rains, and greater erosion due to stronger winds, while livestock will be negatively affected by rising temperature, disease and weather extremes.
Forests cover one-third of Earth’s surface and host two-thirds of all known terrestrial species. Changing climatic conditions may cause frequent forest fires and create conditions favorable to pests; both will lead to degradation and loss of biodiversity.
Marine and Coastal Ecosystems
Oceans cover 70% of Earth’s surface area, forming the largest habitat on Earth; which has some of the world’s most diverse and productive ecosystems, including coral reefs.
The key threats facing the unique entity of ocean by climate change include:
- Rise in sea level: On coastal margins, rising sea levels may lead to an important coastal habitat reduction such as salt marshes.
- Warmer oceans: Rising sea temperatures will lead to increase coastal erosion, extensive coastal flooding events and reducing sea-ice cover. Furthermore, it will affect the species composition and distribution and survival of particular marine resources. Corals reef is a good example, as minor increases in temperature causes coral bleaching leading to loss of coral reef structure and impact negatively on the coral reef ecosystem.
- Increased acidification: as the ocean absorbs atmospheric CO2; it becomes more acidic. Increasing acidification of the ocean due to climate change, has made it difficult for coral polyps to capture water`s calcium. Consequently, coral reefs, face bleaching (whitening and death) at large-scale levels.
Climate change is having the most visible and significant impacts on the polar ecosystems. Escalating melting of ice sheets and glaciers is affecting native people, wildlife and plants in the Polar Regions. Melting glaciers and ice are leading to further release of greenhouse gases and contributing to sea levels rising, threatening many areas with coastal flooding, increasing in beach erosion, and contaminating fresh water supplies.
Furthermore, climate change has devastating effects on polar species, such as: Polar bears, whales, walrus, and seals, which struggle to adapt to the destructive effects of climate change including habitat degradation, changing feeding and migrating patterns. Moreover, warming of areas of the polar oceans in the Antarctic has had a negative impact on the plankton community composition and distribution that support a rich marine food chain.
Some plant species showed shifting in distribution, while other plants previously found on mountaintops have disappeared due to climate change. The shrinking of glaciers result from climate change has led to changes in mountains capacities of holding water, hence affecting downstream ecosystems.
Island ecosystems are fragile and characterized by a high biodiversity. The climate change threats the island ecosystems by rising sea level and massive coral bleaching. Island ecosystems also might suffer from reducing rainfall, an increased frequency and/or intensity of storms, and intolerable high temperatures.
Microbes are central to all life on earth; Microbes perform different significant functions for ecosystems. Little is known about how climate change will impact microbial communities, hence, accumulating evidences show that climate change can hinder specific properties of entire microbial communities and ecosystem functioning. A recent study has shown that soil microbes alter DNA in response to climate change, therefore affecting microbial influence on soil carbon storage and other greenhouse gases.
Recent researches have also shown an increased in microbial-mediated disease impacts in both the terrestrial and marine ecosystems, due to changes in distributing of existing infectious disease vectors, and the seasonal distribution of some allergens pollen species Additionally, evidences show that changes in climate alter certain properties of microbial communities, which eventually have enormous impacts on the food chain supported by the microbes.
Climate Change Impacts on Biodiversity
The future projection of climate change in the Arabia shows a hot, dry future; researches predict more severe droughts, desertification, shifting of ecosystems and species loss. Furthermore, climate change will lead to a significant heat stress and a severe water shortage, hence, Middle East is identified as the first region to run out of fresh water in the globe.
Generally, terrestrial biodiversity in Middle East will suffer the greatest decrease as a result of climate change, while marine ecosystems will suffer from increase in sea levels, changing circulation patterns, changing the biological characteristics, increasing in invasive species, and the marine ecosystems will become more tropical.
Anthropogenic climate change has started affecting different organisms in different ecosystems. The IPCC’s 2007 calculations estimated that greenhouse gas emissions would need to be reduced by at least 80% by 2050 to avoid the devastating impacts of climate change. Since humans have created this problem, it is our moral responsibility to solve it. Governments need to improve the resilience of their communities to existing impacts of the changes in the climate; by doing so, they can enhance the prosperity and sustainability of present and future generations.
Additionally, energy production from burning fossil fuels produces about 80 % of the global CO2 emissions, thus renewable energy is a desirable alternative for reducing human impacts on climate change while protecting biodiversity. Further research should be undertaken to broaden our perspective on the impact of climate change on different ecosystems, with an effective communicating platform to share information, experience and knowledge in climate change mitigation and adaptation.