It's Not Just About the Polar Bears

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We’ve all heard about the polar bears.  Melting Artic sea ice is causing dropping success in polar bear reproduction.  A loss of sea ice cover would mean polar bear extinction.  Nevertheless, polar bears aren’t the only ones being affected.  Other animals are coming out of hibernation earlier, and caribou and reindeer may have trouble finding food.

Invertebrates make up 97% of all animal species, and insects in particular have an amazing effect on their respective ecosystems.  Many species act as pollinators for various plants.  Though warmer climates may mean thriving insect populations, when the insect in question is the spruce budworm, the ecosystem may prefer less of them.

The yearly cycle of birds’ lives is synchronized with that of their food supply (insects) and the changing seasons.  If these two cycles no longer match up, the birds and the entire ecosystem could suffer.  Birds have already begun to alter their wintering habits.

Here in the United States, fishing is not only a commercial activity, but a recreational one as well.  Warmer temperatures and lower water levels in rivers and streams are affecting fish populations.  Streams in the southern Great Plains are already reaching the temperature limits for fish survival, and a rise of eight degrees Fahrenheit would likely eliminate half of the habitable waters of brook trout in the southern Appalachian Mountains.

Last, but not least, reptiles and amphibians will have to adapt to climate change or face the decreasing size of their habitats.  In the cloud forests of mountainous Costa Rica, the rise in cloud altitude has been related to the decline in amphibious species in the area.  If the pools of water where amphibian eggs are laid dry up too soon due to warmer weather, amphibians would also suffer.

(Source: United States Environmental Protection Agency)

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