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Species are disappearing at a far higher rate than is normal, due to various human impacts on the environment; click for larger image. Image courtesy of WWF.By World Wildlife Fund

Climate change leads to a loss of species

Our planet is warming faster than at any time in the past 10,000 years. With these changes, species have to adapt to new climate patterns (variations in rainfall; longer, warmer summers etc).

Global warming resulting from human emissions of greenhouse gases. The consequences include habitat loss; shifts in climatic conditions and in habitats that surpass migrational capabilities; altered competitive relationships.

Changes already underway

Evidence suggests that the warming of the past century already has resulted in marked ecological changes, including changes in growing seasons, species ranges, and patterns of seasonal breeding.

Growing need for adaptations

The fate of many species in a rapidly warming world will likely depend on their ability to migrate away from increasingly less favorable climatic conditions to new areas that meet their physical, biological, and climatic needs.

Selection of the fastest?

WWF scientists have estimated that most species on this planet (including plants) will have to "move" faster than 1,000 metres per year if they are to keep within the climate zone which they need for survival.

Many species will not be able to redistribute themselves fast enough to keep up with the coming changes.

These species, as far as we know given present knowledge, may well become extinct.

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Comment by:  PT (David Alexander) (Dec-29-2009)   Web site
There is a tendency for people to say (and perhaps for all of us to think silently) that we can not change the earth SO dramatically. However, we can. One dramatic example is the passenger pigeon, which according to many accounts including Wikipedia, numbered in the several billions, including flocks of up to two billion birds, up to about 1870.

By 1914 they were extinct primarily due to over-hunting and loss of habitat.

We can not ignore the analogy of the rapid decline in fish populations, and in quite a few larger mammals. Various forces are affecting a wide variety of other animals and plants. The forces include hunting, habitat loss, and pollution. Not all of the affected species are as well-known as the large mammals we hear about, but some play crucial roles in their respective eco-systems.

One example of such an ecosystem is the coral; the coral reef communities that depend on the existence of healthy coral reefs, but the increase of CO2 has increased the acidity of the oceans, and that, combined with temperature increases and pollution, has affected and threatens most of the world's coral reefs.

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