Climate Change And Ecosystems Biographies Examples
Climate is one of the most significant environmental influence on the global ecosystems besides human factors and other natural environmental stressors (EPA sec. 1). Its impact on ecosystems is widespread because it involves composite interactions between the land, ocean, and the atmosphere. For starters, an ecosystem is a self-regulating and self- perpetuating system made up of a community of living organisms in constant interaction with the non-living components of the environment (Kahn para. 1). Scientifically referred to as biotic and abiotic constituents, these set of ecosystem components are interconnected through an intricate and the timeless interaction of webs of energy flows and nutrient cycles (otherwise known as biogeochemical cycles). (Nelson et al., p. 483). Moreover, since ecosystems are technically defined by the network of interaction between biological organisms and the non-living environmental components and among biological organisms themselves, ecosystems vary in size and complexity. However, ecosystems encompass limited and concrete spaces such as the tropical rainforest in Brazil or the desert ecosystems in Africa.
Interestingly ecosystems are dynamic entities controlled by both external and internal factors (EPA sec. 1). Climate is one such factor continuously controlling the overall structure of the ecosystem and the various ecological processes working within it. Therefore, climate change plays a significant role in ecosystem modification, resilience, and total change. Instigated majorly by the human cumulative effects within the global ecosystems, climate change is causing significant ecosystem shifts throughout the planet. Multiple studies have shown that human activities have substantial impacts on the global environment most noticeably by changing the content of CO2 and other GHGs in the atmosphere (Hauser et al., sec. 1).
One of the major effects of climate change on the planetary ecosystems is the change in the global ecological thresholds. According to EPA, these limits “occur when external factors such as climate change, environmental uncertainties, or positive feedbacks irreversible changes” (para. 2). Once the ecological limit is crossed, the ecosystem in question is farfetched to return to its previous condition. The effects of such a change are modifications of the ecosystem phenology, movement, and shifts of species and increases in such disturbances as prolonged drought spell and wild-land fires. According to the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) (2007), changes in global climate results to rises in temperature, which in turn causes changes in precipitation patterns. Climate change also causes an increment in the incidence and severity of extreme environmental events such as hurricanes, floods, and drought. Other published scientific evidences suggest that climate change will have significant impacts on biodiversity at different levels of the organization (Hauser et al., sec. 1).
Extrapolated studies on the environmental impacts on global biota as a result of climate change show significant changes in planetary species distribution and ecosystems structures. This novel changes are principally attributed to the altered global precipitation pattern and increasing temperature (CBD, 2009 as cited in Andrade, Herrera, and Cazzolla, p.13). Additionally, the expected shifts in species' distribution will lead to an increase in species extinction rates (Kahn, para. 2). Table 1 in the appendix exemplifies a typical study summary that shows some of the expected potential impacts of climate change on the planetary major ecosystems zones.
In addition, EPA asserts that it is anticipated that climate change will affect the species composition of several ecosystems thus affecting the continuity of ecosystem functioning because of reductions in species' richness (para. 2). Accelerated invasion of several terrestrial global ecosystems by non-native (foreign) species is expected to compound the current trends in ecosystem changes. The high level and degree of alien species invasion according to Hellmann et al. (2008) is because of the changing and shifting climatic patterns of the earth. (as cited in Andrade, Herrera, and Cazzolla, p. 13). All these changes will lead to changes in ecosystem functioning around the world (EPA, para. 2). The environmental impacts mentioned above and several other inter-related consequences of climate change will undoubtedly affect the sustainability of ecosystem services to both the local communities and global societies.
Worldwide studies further show that the impacts of climate change affect inland fresh-water flow regimes in which water flows in major rivers especially in tropical climates are significantly reduced during the dry season. Other affected zones include the marine and fresh-water fisheries, and carbon sequestration processes (CBD, 209 as cited in Andrade, Herrera, and Cazzolla, p. 13). Moreover, unchecked changes in climate are likely to affect internal ecological processes such as intra and inter-specific competitions and predator-prey relations. Other organic processes that are likely to be adversely affected by climate change includes biological diseases and host-parasite interactions, herbivores-plant combinations, and plant flowering and pollination networks. (Andrade, Herrera, and Cazzolla, p. 13; Kahn, sec. 2).
In sum, climate change and its impacts affect ecosystems in a variety of ways. As pointed above, global warming could force biological species to migrate to higher elevations and latitudes where the prevailing temperatures are more conducive to their survival. Correspondingly, as sea level rises, saltwater intrusion into inland freshwater systems may force species to relocate or die, thus removing keystone species that were critical in the existing food chain. As studies have shown climate change not merely affects ecosystems and species directly, it also interacts with other anthropological stressors. Human stressors such as development have dramatic cumulative ecological changes. For instance, climate change may aggravate the stress that human property development places on most global fragile coastal areas. Additionally, freshly logged forested regions may become extremely vulnerable to erosion (especially water and wind) if climate change leads to increases in heavy rainstorms. Therefore, if not efficiently addressed climate change will have adverse effects on the planet’s ecological well-being.
Andrade, Perez A, Fernandez B. Herrera, and Gatti R. Cazzolla. "Ecosystem based Adaptation." Building Resilience to Climate Change: Ecosystem-based Adaptation and Lessons from the Field. Gland: IUCN, 2010. 12 - 13. Web. 24 Mar. 2015. <https://books.google.co.ke/books?id=xbB5nH7E8koC&printsec=frontcover&dq=Climate+Change+and+Ecosystems&hl=en&sa=X&ei=kD0QVcICgZ3uBrX_gOAL&redir_esc=y#v=onepage&q=Climate%20Change%20and%20Ecosystems&f=false>.
EPA. "Climate Impacts on Ecosystems | Climate Change | US EPA." US Environmental Protection Agency. N.p., 28 Aug. 2014. Web. 24 Mar. 2015. <http://www.epa.gov/climatechange/impacts-adaptation/ecosystems.html>.
Hauser, Rachel, Steve Archer, Peter Backlund, Jerry Hatfield, Anthony Janetos, Dennis Lettenmaier, Mike G. Ryan, David Schimel, and Margaret Walsh. "The Effects of Climate Change on U.S. Ecosystems." U.S. Department of Agriculture. USDA, 2009. Web. 24 Mar. 2015. <http://www.usda.gov/img/content/EffectsofClimateChangeonUSEcosystem.pdf>.
Kahn, Brian. "Ecosystems Face Unprecedented 'Climate Change Velocity' | Climate Central." Climate Change | Climate Central. N.p., 1 Aug. 2013. Web. 24 Mar. 2015. <http://www.climatecentral.org/news/ecosystems-face-unprecedented-changes-in-the-next-century-16301>.
Nelson, Erik J., Peter Kareiva, Mary Ruckelshaus, Katie Arkema, Gary Geller, Evan Girvetz, Dave Goodrich, Virginia Matzek, Malin Pinsky, Walt Reid, Martin Saunders, Darius Semmens, and Heather Tallis. "Climate changes impact on key ecosystem services and the human well-being they support in the US." 11. 9 (2013): 483493. esajournals.org. Web. 24 Mar. 2015. <http://www.esajournals.org/doi/pdf/10.1890/120312>.
Data information as retrieved from (Andrade, Herrera, and Cazzolla p.13)