Climate change is not only affecting our planet’s weather patterns but also having a devastating impact on biodiversity. According to the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN), the number of endangered species is increasing due to the worsening effects of climate change. This article explores the various ways climate change is contributing to the decline of plant and animal species worldwide.
The Threats to Atlantic Salmon and Turtles
Among the species facing a decline due to climate change are Atlantic salmon and turtles. The population of Atlantic salmon has dropped by nearly a quarter from 2006 to 2020, making it now considered “near threatened” by the IUCN. These fish face multiple challenges, including habitat loss caused by human activities such as the construction of dams and water pollution. Climate change exacerbates these threats by making it harder for the fish to find food and increasing competition with invasive species.
The Alarming Red List Update
The IUCN’s Red List of Threatened Species provides a comprehensive overview of global biodiversity. In its latest update, the IUCN revealed that over 44,000 species are currently threatened with extinction, marking an increase from the previous year’s assessment. This alarming trend demonstrates the growing pressure on species worldwide. Craig Hilton-Taylor, head of the Red List unit at the IUCN, emphasizes that no matter where we look, the numbers of threatened species are rising.
Impact on Marine Species
Climate change poses significant risks to marine species, particularly turtles and freshwater fish. The Central South Pacific and East Pacific green turtle is at greater risk due to climate change. Rising sea levels inundate nesting areas, resulting in fewer turtle hatchlings. Additionally, warming waters harm their food supply of seagrasses. Similarly, freshwater fish species face extinction risks as climate change raises sea levels and allows saltwater to travel further up rivers. Pollution and overfishing further compound the threats faced by these species.
Amphibians: Climate Captives
Amphibians, including frogs and salamanders, are particularly vulnerable to the effects of climate change. Approximately 41% of amphibian species are under threat, unable to escape the consequences of higher temperatures and drought. Unlike other animals, amphibians cannot easily move out of harm’s way, making them direct victims of climate change. Vivek Menon, deputy chair of the IUCN’s species survival commission, highlights the urgent need to address climate change’s impact on amphibians.
Encouraging Signs and Conservation Efforts
While the majority of the Red List update brings grim news, there are some glimmers of hope. Two antelope species, including the scimitar-horned oryx, have shown signs of recovery. Although previously categorized as extinct in the wild, recent conservation efforts have led to their endangered status. Reintroduction programs, such as those in Chad, have successfully increased the population of these species, with hundreds of adults and calves now thriving in protected areas.
The Call to Action
Grethel Aguilar, director general of the IUCN, emphasizes the urgent need for human intervention to protect biodiversity. Conservation efforts, when done right, have proven effective in preserving species. To combat the threats posed by climate change, Aguilar emphasizes the necessity of phasing out fossil fuels. This aligns with the ongoing discussions at COP28, where global leaders are working towards sustainable solutions. Aguilar reminds us that nature is here to help us, and it’s our responsibility to reciprocate.
The impact of climate change on endangered species cannot be understated. The increasing number of species on the Red List reflects the urgent need for action. Through addressing the challenges faced by species like Atlantic salmon, turtles, amphibians, and marine life, we can work towards preserving biodiversity. By phasing out fossil fuels and implementing effective conservation strategies, we can create a sustainable future for both our planet and the countless species that call it home.