How biodiversity plays a massive role in climate change.
Climate change has occurred for millions of years, since the very beginning of planet Earth, and it is defined as the shift in temperature and weather patterns over a period of time. Shifts can include temperature increases or decreases, less or more frequent storms, and so on.
The climate change the planet is experiencing today, however, is like no other period in history. Since the Industrial Revolution, greenhouse gasses have reached over 400 parts per million (ppm), the highest concentration ever recorded.
The effects of climate change continue to be observed and studied. However, some direct consequences include an increase in severe storms, drought, and sea level rise.
What Is Biodiversity?
You may have heard the term biodiversity before but may not have a full understanding of what it is and why it's important for the planet. Biodiversity is a shortened term for the words biological and diversity, serving the connections and relationships between all living things. That includes plants, animals, microorganisms, fungi, etc.
Biodiversity can also be measured. It is calculated by observing a place, area, or ecosystem and creating an inventory of all plants, animals, and other species within a given area. This process is known as creating a Biodiversity Index, which can then be analyzed to find out what level of biodiversity is present. While this process can be time-consuming, it's an incredibly useful tool in getting a better understanding of an area and what species have a potential risk of being harmed by climate change, development, and natural disasters.
Why Is Biodiversity Important?
Typically, the more species an area has, where all are working together in a united ecosystem, the higher the level of biodiversity. A high level of biodiversity is essential to the functioning and continuation of life all over the planet. In a broad sense, the higher the biodiversity in an area or ecosystem, the healthier it is. Some of the most biodiverse places on the planet include the Amazon, Alaska, cloud forests, and the Galapagos Archipelago.
Scientists continue to study biodiversity across the globe to better understand its role in evolution, biological systems, and the full function it plays in nature. What we do know is that biodiversity is essential to life as we know it.
Systems in nature are fragile, complex, and sway in a delicate balance that makes life possible. Biodiversity is a central function in pollination, water purification, climate regulation, reproduction, seed dispersal, and overall healthy ecosystems.
Biodiversity helps to preserve the beauty of the planet that we all enjoy. It keeps operations in perfect harmony and allows us to connect with nature in the ways we do. However, biodiversity across the globe is threatened by climate change and drastic temperature fluctuations, pollution, development, poaching, and a lack of environmental regulations to mitigate such impacts.
"Biodiversity is an essential function of the planet."
5 Ways Climate Change Affects Biodiversity
Rising Sea Level Temperature
The ocean acts as a defense against climate change, as it absorbs much of the sun's rays that make it to Earth. However, as the planet begins to warm and more heat becomes trapped within the Earth's atmosphere, the oceans continue to absorb more heat than they are equipped for. Meaning marine species and ecosystems are especially at risk as oceans warm.
Stable ocean temperatures is a small yet greatly important factor for marine systems. Temperature determines the reproduction of marine species, migration patterns, algae blooms, food generation, and overall health of ocean ecosystems. Coral reefs and coastal habitats are especially sensitive to temperature changes and have received a global concern for their diminishing conditions, such as in the famous Great Barrier Reef.
For most species, temperature changes are not enough to drive them to extinction. At least, not quickly. However, the compounding effects of climate change make extinctions more likely. Extinctions occur when a population of a species no longer has the habitat or functioning to continue to reproduce, ultimately causing the species to become extinct.
The Center for Biological Diversity suggests that climate change will be responsible for committing over one-third of the Earth's animal and plant species to extinction by 2050. That is if current greenhouse gas emissions remain the same. If true, this would drastically alter the functioning of the planet and overall biodiversity and could place humans on a path of extinction as well.
Flooding & Droughts
Climate change causes increased flooding events in some regions, while droughts continue to worsen in other areas. Both flooding and drought have a high-stress impact on wildlife and ecosystems.
Damage to ecosystems can cause an area to remain uninhabitable by wildlife species, depending on the frequency and severity. Such damage includes losses in plant growth, increases in fire and insect outbreaks, changes in carbon, nutrient, and water cycling, and more. These environmental stressors often cause wildlife to find another habitat, or they will be at risk of disease, dehydration, starvation, and death.
Habitat loss occurs through human interactions, like the development or clearing of land for agriculture. It also occurs through natural disasters. Climate change has begun to increase storm frequency and severity in many parts of the globe.
As of writing this post, parts of Europe are experiencing record-breaking heat swathes accompanied by wildfires blazing across the continent. Reporters and European government officials are stating these trends will continue as climate change progresses.
Habitat loss forces wildlife species to vacate, risking their lives to find suitable habitats elsewhere.
Biodiversity in an area is important for food security of the species that live there. Food chains are balanced by the biodiversity of all species living in an ecosystem, working as one. As climate change and natural disasters force species away from their habitat, it will become harder for them to acclimate elsewhere and find stable food sources.
Food scarcity is a driver of extinction for many species, especially those that are endemic, meaning they live nowhere else on Earth but where they are currently found.
Climate change has a significant effect on biodiversity across the globe.
Biodiversity is an essential function of the planet.
Protecting biodiversity against climate change can help protect species from extinction.