4J – Ecosystems & climate change

Supporting article J: The effects that climate change will have on various types of ecosystems around the world.

http://www.esru.strath.ac.uk/EandE/Web_sites/02-03/carbon_sequestration/Carbon%20Sequestration-492.htm

Ecosystems under threat
The effects on ecosystems could be many and varied as both plants and animals are sensitive to changes in the climate. The effect of climate change may be more dramatic and rapid than any of the species can adapt to in the natural course of events. Species can take hundreds of years to full adapt to changes in climate conditions. As a results the world may lose many species of both plants and animals. However although the changes might be negative for one region, they might prove to be beneficial to other regions.

The following is how each ecosystem could be effected:
• FORESTS: With the effect of climate change many of these species may have to migrate to cooler climates, this mean that the mainly in a northern direction. However as this type of migration normally happens over the course of millennia and not over the period of decades that may be required, the forests could lose species from it composition while some forests types may disappear altogether.
• RANGELANDS: The is the areas over which some species live. As a result of climate change, there could be change to growing seasons and shifts in the boundaries between different habits. This could result in the loss of fauna and flora, as some species will not be able to migrate due to natural or man-made barriers.
• POLAR ICE-CAPS AND MOUNTAIN GLACIERS: It has been predicted that with climate change around one third or more of the worlds mountain glaciers could melt. This could effect things like the supply of water to rivers, creating adverse effects for hydroelectric dams and agricultural areas down stream of the glacier. With the melting of the polar ice-caps the sea levels would rise, with an increase in icebergs in the short term. However some areas will experience in decrease in permafrost, which will cause problems for the humans living in those areas effected. Also there would be a decrease in the are covered and by the thickness of sea-ice, which would likely improve the navigability of the Arctic Ocean.
• MOUNTAIN REGIONS: Climate change may led some species to move higher up mountains, some species that only survive in certain high regions, could become extinct. In some regions, such as Nepal, could suffer from the decline in food production and fuel resources. Other areas where the emphasis is on recreational use of the area, the rise in either temperature or a fall in rainfall could been economically disastrous for the region.
• WATER WAYS AND WETLANDS: It has been predicted that climate changes would result in changes to the water temperatures, flow system and levels. This will increase species in high level areas and reduce species in low level areas, some species will thrive and others will become extinct. Another problem that could be faced is a decline in water quality, due to increases in the occurrence and length of floods or droughts.
• COASTAL AREAS: Some effects for these areas could be the increased erosion of shoreline, increased salinity of estuaries and freshwater aquifers and changes to the tidal reaches of rivers. The areas most likely to be effects by this are salt water marches, mangrove areas, coastal wetlands, coral reefs and atolls and river deltas.
• OCEANS: With the change in atmospheric temperature due to climate change, the way in which the oceans move around the earth will change. It will also impact on the wave climate and the amount of sea ice. All these will have a secondary effect of changing the available nutrients, the productivity of the biology and even the structure and function of the ocean ecosystem. The changes that could happen to the circulation of the ocean could cause very rapid and dramatic changes in climate, adding to the climate changes would already be taking place.

As well as the above, some areas of the world may experience problems with food production and sustainability. This reasons could be in region no longer having the correct climate for the growth of certain crops, due to drought or to much rain or even an increase in temperature.  Although it has been predicted that globally there will not be a substaintial change in the overall food prodcution. It is also thought that by there very nature developed countries will be better equiped to cope with these changes. It would certainly mean that there would be an overall decline in the flexibility in the distribution of crops.