Which Animals Are Affected By Climate Change?

by | Dec 24, 2023 | Environment, Wildlife

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Climate change poses significant threats to a wide range of animal species. This blog explores how are various animals affected by climate change, examining the diverse and profound impacts on different species across the globe.

Mammals and Birds Facing New Challenges

The mammals, birds and animals affected by climate change are as follows:

Polar Bears and Sea Ice Loss

The ongoing sea ice loss profoundly impacts polar bears due to climate change. As the Arctic environment changes rapidly, polar bears face increasing hunting, breeding, and survival challenges.

A key issue is a decline in sea ice, essential for polar bears as a platform for hunting seals, their primary food source. Studies have shown that polar bears are spending more time on land and fasting for longer periods due to the declining sea ice. This shift is leading to a decrease in their body condition and reproductive success. For instance, mother bears are producing smaller cub litters, and these trends are expected to continue for at least the next three polar bear generations, which is about 37 years​.

Additionally, as polar bears spend more time on land and fast longer, their body condition worsens. This affects their ability to produce milk for their cubs, leading to the production of milk with lower energy content. This negatively impacts the growth rate of the cubs and potentially the overall health of the polar bear population. The decline in lactation performance is linked to increased cub mortality and a significant reduction in the size of the Western Hudson Bay polar bear population, which has decreased by about 50% since the early 1980s​.

Addressing the issue of sea ice loss and its impact on polar bears requires a comprehensive approach to climate change. This includes reducing dependency on fossil fuels, supporting renewable energy sources, and promoting conservation efforts on a global scale.

Also Read: Melting Ice Caps driving Sea-level Rise

Elephants and Habitat Changes

Elephants, both African and Asian, are increasingly facing challenges due to habitat changes driven by climate change. These majestic creatures are highly dependent on specific environmental conditions for their survival, and the alterations in rainfall patterns and temperature profoundly affect their ecosystems.

For African elephants, changes in rainfall affect the availability and quality of vegetation, their primary food source. Extended droughts can lead to food shortages, impacting their health and reproductive capacity. In addition, irregular rainfall patterns can disrupt their traditional migratory routes, leading to conflicts with human populations as they venture into farmlands and villages in search of food and water.

Asian elephants, on the other hand, are experiencing habitat changes primarily due to rising temperatures. This affects the ecosystems they inhabit, often reducing the quality and quantity of their food sources. The stress of higher temperatures can also have direct physiological effects on these elephants, potentially impacting their ability to reproduce and maintain their population numbers.

Moreover, both African and Asian elephants are losing their habitats to human activities like deforestation and urbanization, which are exacerbated by climate change. As their natural habitats shrink, elephants are forced into smaller, fragmented areas, increasing the risk of inbreeding and genetic disorders.

In summary, the combined effects of altered weather patterns and human encroachment pose significant threats to these magnificent creatures’ survival, highlighting the urgent need for concerted conservation efforts and climate change mitigation strategies.

animals affected by climate change

Bird Species and Shifting Habitats

Climate change significantly impacts bird species globally, leading to shifts in their habitats and altering essential aspects of their lives, such as food availability and nesting sites. The Atlantic puffin serves as a prime example of this phenomenon. These birds are susceptible to changes in ocean temperatures, which directly affect the distribution and abundance of their primary food sources, such as fish. As ocean temperatures rise, the fish that puffins feed on either decrease in number or move to cooler waters, forcing puffins to travel further for food.

This change in food availability has a ripple effect on puffin breeding and nesting behaviours. Puffins typically nest in the same areas yearly, but with their food sources moving, they are compelled to establish new nesting sites closer to their shifted feeding grounds. This relocation is a complex task, as suitable and safe nesting sites are critical to their breeding success. The disruption in their traditional nesting areas can lead to reduced breeding success and, consequently, a decline in population numbers.

Furthermore, these shifts in habitat and food sources can expose puffins to new predators and environmental challenges, adding to the pressures they face in a rapidly changing climate. The plight of the Atlantic puffin is a clear indicator of how climate change is reshaping the natural world and underscores the urgent need for effective environmental conservation measures.

Aquatic Life: Underwater Worlds in Peril

The aquatic life affected by climate change are as follows:

Coral Reefs and Ocean Warming

Coral reefs, often called the “rainforests of the sea,” face a dire threat from ocean warming. These vibrant ecosystems, which support a quarter of all marine species, are susceptible to temperature changes. As global temperatures rise, so do ocean temperatures, leading to widespread coral bleaching events.

Coral bleaching occurs when corals, stressed by higher temperatures, expel the symbiotic algae (zooxanthellae) living in their tissues. This algae provides the coral with food through photosynthesis and is responsible for the corals’ vivid colours. Without these algae, corals turn white (bleach) and, more critically, lose a significant source of nourishment. Prolonged bleaching can lead to coral death.

The implications of coral reef degradation extend far beyond the loss of aesthetic beauty. Reefs play crucial roles in protecting coastlines from erosion and storm surges. They also support local economies through tourism and fishing. The loss of biodiversity due to coral die-off disrupts marine food chains, affecting many species, from tiny fish to large predators.

Current trends in climate change and its impact on ocean temperatures suggest that coral reefs are at a critical juncture. Immediate and concerted global efforts in reducing greenhouse gas emissions and implementing reef conservation strategies are imperative to prevent further loss and encourage the recovery of these vital marine ecosystems.

Whales: Migration and Reproduction Disruptions

Climate change disrupts whale migration patterns and reproductive habits, closely tied to specific ocean temperatures.

Sharks: Hunting and Survival in Warmer Waters

Rising ocean temperatures and acidity levels are causing difficulties for sharks in hunting and embryo survival​​​​.

Insects and Plants: The Smaller Victims

The insects and plants affected by climate change are as follows:

Bees: Pollination at Risk

Climate change impacts bees, crucial for pollination, by forcing their migration and altering the flowering patterns of plants they depend on.

Butterflies and Altered Migratory Patterns

Monarch butterflies, for example, face disruptions in their migratory patterns due to temperature changes, impacting their breeding and feeding behaviours​​​.

Conclusion: A Call for Conservation

The diverse animals affected by climate change highlight the urgent need for concerted conservation efforts. By understanding these challenges, we can take steps to mitigate the effects and protect these vital members of our ecosystem.

Also Read: Endemic Wildlife: Their Importance For Nature As A Whole

 

Author

  • Dr. Emily Greenfield

    Dr. Emily Greenfield is a highly accomplished environmentalist with over 30 years of experience in writing, reviewing, and publishing content on various environmental topics. Hailing from the United States, she has dedicated her career to raising awareness about environmental issues and promoting sustainable practices.

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