Biodiversity and climate change - from bad to worse

Dec 08, 2011 By Bob Beale
Credit: Bob Beale

(PhysOrg.com) -- A major new scientific review, involving more than 30 scientists from Australia, New Zealand and the Pacific Islands sets out our current knowledge of the impacts of climate change on biodiversity in the latest special edition of the scientific journal Pacific Conservation Biology.

The special issue, launched at the International Conference for Conservation Biologists in Auckland, also presents options for governments managing complex in the face of the threat from .

One of the two main editors, Professor Richard Kingsford, Director of Australian Wetlands and Rivers Centre at the University of New South Wales says: “ in our region is already severely impacted by habitat loss, pollution, feral animals and weeds and overharvesting. Climate change impacts just make these problems much worse”.

Eight scientific reviews focus on current scientific understanding of climate change in , and the Pacific Islands and also how this varies on land, sea and freshwater environments.

Not unsurprisingly, all papers identify temperature rise and sea level rise as having considerable impacts on biodiversity.

“People and their environments on Pacific Islands have been in the vanguard of global and this is predicted to worsen as sea levels rise. Beach nesting turtles and seabirds and freshwater wetlands are particularly vulnerable,” says Kingsford.

The other editor, Dr. James Watson of the Wildlife Conservation Society and President of the Oceania Board of the Society for , warns that climate change impacts affect land, marine and freshwater environments in many different ways.

“Temperature rises on terrestrial environments are going to change where animals and plants can live in the future, with some species particularly vulnerable to extreme temperatures,” Dr. Watson says. “In marine systems, sea level rise and the impacts of temperature and acidification on coral reef systems are of particular concern. Our freshwater rivers and wetlands are also extremely vulnerable to rising temperatures and changes to rainfall beyond the tolerances of many different organisms.”

The consequences of climate change are inevitable, given the lack of effective global initiatives to limit greenhouse gases and so all the papers also canvas adaptation options for environments and governments, according to Kingsford.

“There are some obvious things we can do,” he says. “If we stopped unsustainable practices - such as developing , clearing vegetation and destroying marine habitats - we would make for much more resilient environments.”

Dr. Watson says there are many ways of effectively planning for the future: “We should be increasing our national park areas, connecting fragmented parts of the landscape and restoring degraded habitats. For some iconic plants and animals, we may even have to translocate them from places where their tolerances are exceeded.”

The special issue of the journal provides a clear signal to Oceania region governments and communities about the pressing impacts of climate change on biodiversity and the challenges it presents, says Kingsford.

“There are opportunities to mitigate some of these impacts but it requires planning now, not when future generations inherit the problem.”

Explore further: Boosting global corn yields depends on improving nutrient balance

add to favorites email to friend print save as pdf

Related Stories

Rivers buckle under pressure from climate, dams

Mar 21, 2011

Climate change is likely to intensify the alarming rate of degradation of the world’s rivers and wetlands unless water resources are better managed, according to a special issue of the international scientific journal ...

Plants protect from climate impacts

Aug 02, 2011

Native vegetation must be restored to protect Australia’s unique ecosystems from the impacts of climate change, according to scientists from the Australian National University.

Koalas feel the heat

May 04, 2011

The Australian koala is vulnerable to climate change, with the iconic Australian marsupial's habitat likely to be restricted to the highly urbanised areas of eastern and southern Australia under a hotter and ...

Extinction crisis looms in Oceania: study

Jul 28, 2009

Governments must act urgently to halt loss of habitats and invading species that are posing major threats to biodiversity and causing species extinctions across Australia, New Zealand and the Pacific Islands, according to ...

Recommended for you

Environmentalists and industry duke it out over plastic bags

50 minutes ago

Campaigns against disposable plastic shopping bags and their environmental impact recently scored a major win. In August, California lawmakers passed the first statewide ban on the bags, and Governor Jerry Brown is expected ...

Global change: Trees continue to grow at a faster rate

2 hours ago

Trees have been growing significantly faster since the 1960s. The typical development phases of trees and stands have barely changed, but they have accelerated—by as much as 70 percent. This was the outcome ...

Cape Cod saltmarsh recovery looks good, falls short

2 hours ago

After decades of decline, grasses have returned to some once-denuded patches of Cape Cod's saltmarshes. To the eye, the marsh in those places seems healthy again, but a new study makes clear that a key service ...

Manure offsets fertiliser's nano-scale changes

2 hours ago

A UWA study has shown how long-term use of chemical fertilisers changes the soil on a nanoparticle scale and how these changes can be avoided by adding organic matter such as manure.

User comments : 1

Adjust slider to filter visible comments by rank

Display comments: newest first

omatumr
1 / 5 (3) Dec 08, 2011
the real face of climate change


Betrayal of basic principles of science [1-6]:

1. The BBC and climate change: A triple betrayal

http://thegwpf.or...-bbc.pdf

2. "Deep roots of the global climate scandal (1971-2011)"

http://dl.dropbox...oots.pdf

3. "The 1975 Endangered Atmosphere Conference," 21st Century Science & Technology (2007)

www.21stcenturysc...Born.pdf

4. "Super-fluidity in the solar interior: Implications for solar eruptions and climate", Journal of Fusion Energy 21, 193-198 (2002)

http://arxiv.org/.../0501441

5. "The Sun Kings" (Princeton University Press, 2007)

www.amazon.com/Su...91126607

6. "Earth's heat source - The Sun," Energy & Environ 20, 131-144 (2009)

http://arxiv.org/pdf/0905.0704

With kind regards,
Oliver K. Manuel
Former NASA Principal
Investigator for Apollo