climate change and biodiversity loss 

As the climate changes as a result of human activities that release greenhouse gasses into the atmosphere, so the environments that it forms part of changes, too.  Some environments get drier, some wetter, some hotter, some effectively move.  Some, such as alpine and polar climates, disappear altogether.  


Climate is an important part of the makeup of the environments of Earth.  The relationship between the climate and environments that it forms part of is a complex and recursive one.  A particular environment is a combination of the local micro climate, the local geology, and the plants and animals that live in it.  If any of these components change they are all likely to change, creating a new environment that the living components – plants and animals – must adapt to. 


Generally, older environments, that is, environments that have had stable characteristics for a long time, have greater biodiversity because the living things in them have had time to evolve to become diversified and specialised to fit niches within that environment which enables them to make more efficient use of its resources.  They also evolve to fit more tightly into the interactions between each other that make up that environment.  This commitment to very specific environmental conditions makes them more vulnerable to change.  Tropical rainforests and coral reefs are examples of these environments.  


New or changed environments have a smaller range of more generalised living things that can each make use of the wide range of conditions that are available in a new environment, although they do this less efficiently that highly evolved species in a old environment.  Newly risen volcanic islands, and large areas devastated by severe fires are examples of these environments. 


As climate change causes environments to change, they effectively become new environments.  Many species that are highly adapted to specific environmental niches cannot readapt as those niches disappear, and so become extinct.  The complexity of the changed environments is reduced; that is, they incorporate a smaller range of species and biodiversity is lost.


This page is linked from:

biodiversity loss by habitat destruction

climate change


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