The Impact of Climate Change on Biodiversity and Ecosystems
Mar 16, 2023 | Written by Kat
Human existence has transformed the planet by continuously modifying its physical and biological systems to serve our wants and needs. From large-scale agriculture to sourcing Earth's natural resources for industrialization, we've been but the greatest stressor of climate change. Even various scientists believe that humans' impact on the evolution of life will be responsible for the sixth mass extinction. Thus, we must start taking action to mitigate climate change as early as now as we only rely on Earth's life-sustaining benefits to survive.
Right now, climate disasters or the effects of climate change and global warming are all over the news. From icebergs melting, sea levels rising, extreme weather conditions, and more, we can see how it affects us all. With this blog, you can learn more about how it impacts everything, so read on to learn more.
Understanding Biodiversity And Ecosystem
Biodiversity or biological diversity is the rich variety of life on our planet Earth—from genes and microbes to complete ecosystems like forests or coral reefs. It forms the web of life we rely on, including food, water, medicine, a stable climate, and even economic progress.
One of the four main levels of biodiversity is the ecosystem, which has two types—aquatic and terrestrial. The aquatic ecosystem can further be divided into marine and freshwater ecosystems. Meanwhile, the terrestrial ecosystem includes forest, grassland, tundra, and desert ecosystems.
With the climate crisis going on today, biodiversity and ecosystems are the first ones to get harshly affected. Let's take a closer look at how climate change impacts them, focusing on the two types of ecosystems and species, which includes us.
Effects of Climate Change on Biodiversity And Ecosystem
1. Aquatic Ecosystem
1) Sea Levels Rising
As the planet warms, the oceans absorb much of the additional heat. This causes the water to expand, leading to sea level rise. Glaciers and ice melting from Greenland and Antarctic sheets also add more water to the seas. The World Meteorological Organization research shows that the global sea level reached a record high in 2021, with an average of 4.5 millimeters per year from 2013.
This unprecedented sea level rise causes saltwater intrusion into fresh aquifers, which leads to groundwater quality degradation—making the water unsuitable for drinking and other uses. It can also potentially displace more than 680 million people living across low-lying coastal areas, per the 2019 UN report.
2) Ocean Acidification
With a large amount of carbon dioxide (CO2) released into the atmosphere, burning fossil fuels, deforestation, and land use, oceans are at great risk of acidification. While they generate 50% of the oxygen we breathe, they also absorb 20% of all the carbon from the atmosphere. This causes a decrease in ocean pH and an increase in acidity, which affects marine ecosystems like coral reefs.
3) Marine Heatwaves
With the ocean absorbing about 90% of the heat from the atmosphere, it also increases the frequency and intensity of marine heat waves. These abnormally elevated ocean temperatures usually last for several weeks to months and can cause oral bleaching, fish kills, and algal blooms.
2. Terrestrial Ecosystem
Drought is an extended dry period that can happen anywhere in the world. The rising temperatures because of climate change contribute to this environmental phenomenon—increasing evaporation rates, changing precipitation patterns, and causing water loss from soil and vegetation. Droughts are the biggest threat to livestock and crops in almost every region of the world, affecting an estimated 55 million people annually.
2) Heat Waves and Wildfires
Climate change is also one of the main factors contributing to heatwaves and wildfires. Warmer global temperatures increase the intensity and frequency of heat waves and the risk of wildfires. In 2022, heatwaves hit Europe, North Africa, the Middle East, and Asia as temperatures broke numerous long-standing records and reached as high as 40 °C (104 °F) in certain locations. In the same year, there were 68,988 wildfires recorded that burned 7.6 million acres.
3) Flash Floods
Flash floods are phenomena that we commonly experience because of extreme weather conditions. However, with global warming now, more water evaporates from the ground and enters the atmosphere as water vapor, which causes excessive rainfalls and stronger typhoons. These precipitations lead to rising water levels and storm surges, bringing flash floods to various areas, especially those living in coastal communities.
1) Migration And Extinction
With climate change altering ecosystems, many species lose their habitat, causing them to migrate to higher latitudes. It's also because of climate change and habitat loss that many species have gone extinct. IPCC projections show that for every °C rise in global temperature, species' risk of extinction also rises. Basically, when climate change impacts the health of ecosystems, it also affects the species living in those ecosystems.
2) Threats on Agriculture
Climate change also threatens agriculture in various ways. For instance, extreme weather patterns, floods, and droughts can affect how you grow crops and raise livestock. And if the rising sea levels reach the coastal agricultural land and salinize it, it makes it unsuitable for farming. Finally, warmer temperatures can increase the occurrence of pathogens and pests that could damage your farm and cause diseases.
3) Human Safety
Climate change poses a serious threat to human safety. Heat waves, storms, and floods are becoming more frequent and intense lately, leading people to injuries and even death. Besides natural phenomena, climate change also threatens our food and water security. And if we don't prepare and try to mitigate what's causing the risks, these effects will impact everyone, especially the most vulnerable populations.
The Bottom Line
Climate change significantly affects everything. And right now, our biodiversities, ecosystems, and lives are at risk. The IPCC 2018 report already warned us that increasing global warming beyond 1.5 °C will only intensify the impacts of climate change. Thus, we have to take accountability for this crisis and fight for our home.
We start with corporations that significantly contribute to the crisis. They must strengthen their green initiative by investing in eco-friendly equipment, reducing their GHG emissions, and taking TFCD recommendations for transparency. Their big action will have a great impact on our fight against climate change.
However, of course, our environmental initiative will only succeed if we all take part in it. So, we start in our homes by having a sustainable living—growing plants and using green furniture. With our continuous effort to mitigate climate change, we can all look forward to a sustainable future.