As climate change alters temperature and weather patterns, it will also have an impact on plant and animal life. Both the number and range of species, which define biodiversity, are expected to decline greatly as temperatures continue to rise. The loss of biodiversity could have many negative impacts on the future of ecosystems and humanity worldwide.
Climate Change's Impact on Environment
Greenhouse gases, such as carbon dioxide, absorb heat from sunlight, preventing it from escaping back into space. As the level of greenhouse gases rises, so will temperatures. The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change predicts that by 2100, temperatures may rise as much as 6 degrees Celsius (11 degrees Fahrenheit). Though changes in climate have happened in the past, the rapid severity of this change will directly affect ecosystems and biodiversity.
Effects on Land Biodiversity
The polar regions are already affected by rising temperatures. Diminishing ice packs have reduced the habitats of polar bears, penguins, puffins and other Arctic creatures. As the ice melts, it will cause a rise in sea level, which will affect and perhaps destroy ecosystems on coast lines. Changes in temperatures will also cause shifts in mating cycles, especially for migratory animals that rely on changing seasons to indicate their migration and reproductive timing.
Effects on Ocean Biodiversity
Rising sea levels will also cause changes to sea temperature and perhaps even currents. Such changes would have a strong impact on zooplankton, an essential part of the food chain in the ocean. Shifts in where plankton are found and how big their populations are could upset the biodiversity in the ocean. Whales especially could be affected as many species require mass amounts of plankton to survive. In addition, increased carbon dioxide causes acidification of the ocean, affecting creatures and plants that are sensitive to pH imbalances.
Lack of Biodiversity
As biodiversity decreases, there will be far-reaching effects. Disruptions in the food chain may greatly affect not only ecosystems but also humanity's ability to feed an ever-growing population. For example, losing diverse insect species will decrease plant pollination. There is also a risk of decreased ability to produce medicine as key plants are lost to extinction. Biodiversity also protects against natural disasters, such as grasses that have evolved specifically to resist the spread of wildfires.