Impact of Climate Change on Vulnerable Species

As a global community, we continue to see advancements in all areas of society at a rapid rate. Whether they be new technologies, political agendas, or economic goals. However, Global Climate Change is considered one of our many biggest challenges in the twenty-first century and it seems as though not enough efforts are being made to reverse this looming danger.

Why does it seem as though we are unattached to this issue?

Some may say it could account for the lack of education on the topic or even inadequate funding that goes into conservation initiatives and projects. 

One thing is for certain though. Humans can suffer greatly by not addressing this issue. Loss of biodiversity is one of the countless effects that come from Climate Change. Endangered species everywhere experience some of the worst consequences of Climate Change. This loss can serve to be detrimental to humans as many species around the world contribute significantly to ecosystem services. Here are some of the few species that are already facing some of the burdens:

Dugongs

These peaceful sea creatures graze for seagrass and are found in the warm waters of the Indian and Western Pacific Oceans. Belonging to the taxonomic order of Sirena, much like their close relative, the manatee. Unfortunately, their numbers are decreasing significantly due to different human activities that affect their reproduction and food source. Dugongs rely solely on seagrass as a means for food. Seagrass provides a method in which scientists can determine whether the ecosystem is healthy or not. Therefore, thanks to the Dugong we can an agent in detecting if the ecosystem is thriving based on the amount of Seagrass that is available. In fact, according to the Dugong and Seagrass Conservation Project, they play such an important role in combating Climate Change that Seagrass can account for 10% of the annual carbon sink capacity of the oceans. Dugongs are not just considered mermaids of the sea, but also a vital component to combating climate change. 

 IUCN lists the dugong as a species vulnerable to extinction

If you would like to be a part of the effort in saving Dugongs, you can donate to the World Wildlife Fund Australia here!

Polar Bears

Polar bears can be considered one of the first species discovered to be impacted by Climate Change. As a result, they are now often identified as the poster animal for anthropogenic caused climate change.

Many people are not aware that Polar bears are classified as marine animals since they spend the majority of their life on the sea ice in the Arctic. We have seen a significant loss in sea ice over the past decade due to warming temperatures in the Arctic. This phenomena considerably threaten Polar bears as they spend about 50% of their lives hunting on the sea ice. Much like Dugongs, Polar bears are considered a Bioindicator, which means they help to measure the state of the Arctic ecosystem. The future of the Arctic and all the life systems it supports rely on the survival of these majestic marine animals. Let’s save the sea ice!

Polar Bear relaxing on his time off from hunting

To donate for the conservation and protection of Polar Bears, you can support Polar Bear International!

Cheetahs

Unfortunately even the world’s fastest animal can not outrun the ramifications of Climate Change. According to the National Museums of Kenya and the Kenya Wildlife Service, Cheetahs have started to develop abnormal coils in their sperm in addition to low sperm count, which has led to extremely low testosterone levels in males as a result. Their genetic diversity is also being affected by the loss of their main prey, the Thomson’s gazelle. This specific gazelle is also experiencing population due to Climate Change and as a result, the Cheetah has had to switch its diet which also affects its reproduction ability significantly. Even an animal that is a symbol for strength and endurance has its limits and unfortunately, they will continue to pay the price for our actions if we do not start taking action ourselves. 

Two cheetahs on the lookout

You can donate to the Cheetah Conservation Fund here to help protect the fastest animals in the world!

Giant pandas

Much like Polar Bears, Giant pandas are being affected by Climate Change through the loss of both their habitat and food source. A study by the journal “Nature Climate Change” predicts that climate change will eradicate a significant portion of the bamboo which the bears rely on for food. This can be directly related to the considerably high amount of human development that is both destroying their home and blocking their access to places where bamboo affected by rising temperatures. The World Wildlife Fund indicates that as the agricultural value of land in current panda habitat increases, human activity of growing crops and grazing livestock may contribute to the infringement of their habitat. In order to preserve the survival of Giant pandas, conservation methods should encourage the protection of their homes and the growth of bamboo.

A giant panda munching bamboo

If you would like to help protect these gentle giants, you can donate to the World Wildlife Fund here!

Asian Elephants

In many cultures, Elephants are revered and respected for their strength and wisdom. Sadly, the effects of climate change are big enough for the largest animal in Asia. Warming temperature has made the amount of fresh water available meager.  Elephants require up to two hundred and twenty-five liters of freshwater per day. If they are not able to obtain this amount, influences in their daily activities like migration and reproduction can be impacted remarkably. However one of the more influential in their survival, Elephants are faced with more than one threat. Illegal wildlife trade, poaching, the capture of wild elephants, loss of habitat, and the unsustainable tourism industry they are forced to participate in are all factors in their decline. Ecological balance depends on the durability of these giants because of their ability to maintain vegetation and the spreading of plants it feeds on. The plight of Elephants is one that many animals around the world face. Our ability to help protect Elephants and all other life is vital to our own survival.

Elephants enjoying a river bath

The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Services have an Asian Elephant Fund that you can donate to support these revered creatures

Coral Reefs

Finally, although a species that may not be cute and cuddly, or fast and strong, their carbon-capturing abilities are just as important to our planet. Coral reefs harbor the largest biodiversity in its ecosystem than anywhere else in the world. Not only is it home to thousands of species, but it also directly supports over 500 million people worldwide according to the International Union for Conservation of Nature. 

Currently, climate change is affecting coral reefs through a process known as coral bleaching. When water becomes too warm and the ocean temperature rises, coral casts out an alga living in their tissue, this results in the coral turning completely white. The fate of corals is at stake and would, therefore, result in many different consequences. Coral reefs provide an array of significant functions to the ocean and planet as a whole. They protect against flooding, sustain fishing and tourism industries, assist in nutrient recycling, provide habitat for many marine organisms, and one of much important: assist in carbon and nitrogen-fixing. Without these essential reefs acting as a carbon sink for the different greenhouse gases that humans contribute to greatly, climate change will continue to pose as a threat for all other life as well. 

Fish peeking through a body of Coral Reef

To donate to support Coral Reefs around the world you can donate to the Coral Reef Alliance here!

We must address these issues as a global community in which each and every one of us contributes to creating an environment that will last generations. There is no other home these species have to call, which also includes us. This planet is all we have and by creating sustainable methods, protecting and investing in conservation initiatives, and creating innovative ways to view this critical issue, we can achieve a better world.

By, Victoria Pedrosa