Climate Change and the Ecosystem

What is climate change?

Climate change is the change in rainfall and temperature patterns across the globe. Climate has always changed and will continue to change. So what’s all this fuss about? There are two things to note here:

  1. The frequency and magnitude of this change has increased rapidly in recent time, which makes it harder to cope with.
  2. This change in rainfall and temperature patterns across the globe can be attributed to human actions not natural phenomenon.

The term most people are familiar with is Global Warming, which is the increase in average temperatures in earth’s atmosphere. The two major factors that contribute to global warming are burning of fossil fuels and emissions of green house gases like carbon dioxide and methane. Lately, both factors have been on the rise. This short video by sky news accurately explains what would happen to the world if the temperatures rose by only 2-degree Celsius.

According to Statista.com, Earth’s surface temperature in 2013 was 0.37 degrees warmer than the 20th century average. Melting of polar ice caps and the subsequent increase in seal levels has been a direct result of global warming. NASA presents, with a series of graphs, how the world temperature has been changing for the past 150 years.

An Ecosystem is consists of all living organisms including plants and animals that interact with each other and their surrounding environment. Climate change has a serious and irreversible impact on ecosystems.

Species extinction

Species on earth have been gradually adapting to changes in climate for millions of years. Recent changes in climate are not gradual, they are occurring rapidly which calls for species to adapt at a much larger and faster scale. Most of the species that fail to do so will be headed for extinction in the near future. Experts say that one-fourth of the Earth’s species could be headed for extinction by 2050 due to climate change.

Coral Bleaching

Oceans are a system of plants and animals that exchange gases with the atmosphere. Warming of water has led to destruction of life and habitat, which are temperature sensitive. There has also been a rise in the PH level (acidity) of the oceans due to increasing global temperatures.  Acidic oceans cause the corals to expel the algae from their tissues rendering them colorless. This can lead to coral mortality.  Coastal erosion, UV radiation and Marine pollution are also responsible for destruction of coral reefs. Organizations like Fisheries and Oceans Canada, Environment Canada and Parks Canada have been working towards the protection of fishes and marine habitats and to reduce pollution of these ecosystems.

Parasites and Diseases

Changes in weather and temperature can result in the spread of parasites and diseases to non-native areas. For example, the outbreak of Mountain pine beetles in the forest’s of British Columbia. The Mountain pine beetle has attacked Lodgepole Pine trees and are now adapted to Jack Pine in the Boreal forests. This outbreak is in part due to climate change and forest management practices. Climate change has resulted in mild winters and hot summers which has increased the severity of the outbreak. This has resulted in the death of trees and $30 billion lost in forest products 

Habitat Destruction

Every species has their own native habitat where the temperature and weather conditions are perfect for their survival. For example, Polar Bear live in the Polar Regions with low temperatures and abundant snow/ice. Increasing temperatures and melting ice lead to the destruction of their habitat. Coastal species that live in low-lying coastal areas and wetlands are losing their habitats to increasing sea level.

Desertification

Desertification is the drying up of previously productive land areas. Rising temperatures and change in rainfall patterns have led to desertification in many parts of the world. Droughts and resulting Famines are a direct consequence of desertification. Ecosystems and agricultural lands have lost their vegetation cover leading to increased soil erosion. Organisms have been severely affected by the drying up of lake and other water bodies. Climate change is a threat to future of all living organisms that occupy this beautiful planet and we, as humans cannot afford to ignore it any longer.

“WE DO NOT INHERIT THE EARTH FROM OUR ANCESTORS, WE BORROW IT FROM OUR CHILDREN.”

Blog by Bhavesh Tekchandani