Impact of climate change on species

A growing need for species to adapt to a changing world

Climate change leads to a loss of species

Our planet is warming faster than at any time in the past 10,000 years. With these changes, species have to adapt to new climate patterns (variations in rainfall; longer, warmer summers etc).

Global warming resulting from human emissions of greenhouse gases. The consequences include habitat loss; shifts in climatic conditions and in habitats that surpass migrational capabilities; altered competitive relationships.

Changes already underway

Evidence suggests that the warming of the past century already has resulted in marked ecological changes, including changes in growing seasons, species ranges, and patterns of seasonal breeding.

Growing need for adaptations

The fate of many species in a rapidly warming world will likely depend on their ability to migrate away from increasingly less favorable climatic conditions to new areas that meet their physical, biological, and climatic needs.

Selection of the fastest?

WWF scientists have estimated that most species on this planet (including plants) will have to "move" faster than 1,000 metres per year if they are to keep within the climate zone which they need for survival.

Many species will not be able to redistribute themselves fast enough to keep up with the coming changes.

These species, as far as we know given present knowledge, may well become extinct.

Fast facts about climate change and species

    • Global warming has the potential to cause extinctions in a majority of the world's especially valuable ecosystems.
       
    • Depending on a species responses to the warming, especially their ability to migrate to new sites, habitat change in many ecoregions has the potential to result in catastrophic species loss.
       
    • Global warming is likely to have a winnowing effect on ecosystems, filtering out species that are not highly mobile and favouring a less diverse, more "weedy" vegetation and ecosystems that are dominated by pioneer species, invasive species.

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