North Atlantic Right Whale
The North Atlantic Right Whale is one of the most endangered animals on the planet, with only between 300-350 individuals left. These whales have been exploited by humans since the 10th century, and because their habitat is coastal, they are more vulnerable to human activity than some other whales. In addition to human-caused threats like fishing nets and collisions with ships, the small North Atlantic Right Whale population can be particularly affected by climate change. Warmer oceans tend to have less zooplankton, a primary component of the North Atlantic Right Whale diet. Even one particularly bad year for food can have effects for years.
Sea turtles, like other marine animals, will likely be affected by climate change. In fact, sea turtles are getting hit by climate change on several fronts. As sea levels rise, the sea turtle’s nesting beaches will likely erode, warmer oceans will alter the sea turtle’s ocean habitat, and changes in ocean current can disrupt migration and feeding patterns. Climate change could even change the ratio of male-to-female sea turtles. Warmer nest temperatures yield more females. A study published last year in Nature Climate Change found that nests that were around 84.2 degrees had about a 50-50 sex ratio. When that temperature was increased to 87.8 degrees, almost all the hatchlings were female.
I know coral just looks like a bunch of rocks, but they are animals, and crucial ones. They are tiny invertebrates with a hard calcium carbonate skeletal system that forms important marine ecosystems. Coral reefs are home to beautiful structures and extensive biodiversity. Unfortunately, climate change is causing a lot of problems for coral. Coral respond to stress from changes in temperature, light, and nutrients by bleaching, or expelling symbiotic algae that turns the coral white. While this isn’t fatal in itself, it indicates that the coral aren’t doing well and are more vulnerable to infectious disease. In addition, carbon dioxide absorbed by the oceans is causing ocean acidification that has already begun to reduce calcification rates of reef-building organisms.
These are Antarctic birds that subsist mostly on krill. Krill live on the underside of ice sheets. Adélie penguins are “sea ice obligate” birds,meaning that they only exist with sea ice. As global temperatures increase and sea ice melts, this becomes a problem. As sea ice becomes more sparse, it becomes more difficult for these penguins to find food and ultimately reproduce.
One might not think of insects as particularly sensitive to climate, but they are. A paper published earlier this year indicates that severe droughts caused by climate change could be catastrophic for some species of butterfly in the United Kingdom. While the butterflies would likely not be eradicated from the island, it might fragment the butterfly populations. The study found that butterflies predicted to be OK under more gradual warming wouldn’t fare so well if the warming was more rapid.
In addition, the famous Monarch butterfly is also put at risk because of climate change. Monarchs have been under threat for years because of habitat loss, but climate change could affect the butterfly’s summer and winter breeding grounds, as well.
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