How Is Climate Change Affecting Biodiversity?

Climate change threatens to decrease the number and range of species on Earth as warming continues apace. This would have devastating consequences for plants, animals, and the humans that depend on them.

Here are the three most important consequences:

  • Effects on land
  • Effects in the ocean
  • Effects on medicines

Effects on land 

Shrinking ice cover endangers Arctic species like penguins and polar bears. The associated rise in sea level can destroy ecosystems on coastlines. The warmer temperatures attributed to climate change can disrupt mating cycles and migration by throwing off expected seasonal timing.

Learn more: Biodiversity on land

Effects on oceans

Oceans absorb a quarter of all the human-produced greenhouse gases in the world, according to Our Shared Seas. Seas become warmer and more acidic. This harms species that need to calcify their shells, among other effects. “The ocean also absorbs 90 percent of excess heat from the atmosphere,” the group says, leading to patches with low oxygen. Stressors like overfishing and invasion of new species only make the problem worse.

Learn more: marine biodiversity

Effects on medicines

We depend on aspirin, morphine and caffeine every day. However, Columbia University reports that they are “modeled after chemical compositions in plants.” They further say that scientists would be at a disadvantage when trying to discover new medicines if undiscovered or uninvestigated wildlife species disappear. This could include new vaccines.

Learn more: Climate change and medicines

Key takeaways 

  • Climate change threatens to reduce the range and number of species in our oceans and on land. 
  • It can also make it harder for scientists to develop new medicines and vaccines due to a loss of diversity in plants.

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