Climate change will bring a combination of rising temperatures and increased predation that will result in biodiversity loss – and it may be worse than currently predicted, claims a study by University of British Columbia (UBC) zoologist Christopher Harley.
“Global warming is already having significant ecological impacts and it’s only going to get more dramatic,” Harley warned.
Published in the current issue of the journal Science, the study examines how rocky shore barnacles and mussels react to the combined effects of warming and predation by sea stars.
Harley looked at the upper and lower temperature limits of barnacles and mussels from the cool west coast of Vancouver Island to the warm shores of the San Juan Islands, where water temperature rose from relatively cool in the 1950s to the much warmer years of 2009 and 2010.
He found that in cooler locations, mussels and rocky shore barnacles could live high on the shore and be shielded from their predators. But as temperatures rose, barnacles and mussels had to move to lower shore levels — and be exposed to predatory sea stars, whose location has not shifted.
“Sea stars are the terrors of the intertidal zone,” said Harley, Vancouver Sun reports. “As it gets hotter you would expect [species] to just move down to lower positions on the shore where they wouldn’t be out of the water for so long. But things aren’t shifting in unison.”
As daily high temperatures during the summer have jumped by almost 3.5 degrees Celsius in the last 60 years, barnacle and mussels have moved 50 cm lower on the shore. However, the effects of predators, and therefore the position of the lower limit, have thus far remained unchanged.
“That loss represents 51% of the mussel bed. Some mussels have even gone extinct locally at three of the sites I surveyed,” said Harley.
He then found that when stress from sea star predation was reduced by using exclusion cages, mussels and other species were able to live in hotter sites where they usually can’t — and their populations there more than doubled.
“A mussel bed is kind of like an apartment complex – it provides critical habitat for a lot of little plants and animals,” said Harley. “The mussels make the habitat cooler and wetter, providing an environment for crabs and other small crustaceans, snails, worms and seaweed.”
In contrast with many previous studies on how species ranges will change due to global warming, this analysis does not assume that species will simply relocate to remain in their current temperature range.
As animals or plants are unable to change their habitat ranges, Harley told, the findings show that warming and predation together could spawn more widespread extinction than scientists currently anticipate.
“Warming is not just having direct effects on individual species,” Harley added. “This study shows that climate change can also alter interactions between species, and produce unexpected changes in where species can live, their community structure, and their diversity.”
The effect on fishers
Relatedly, UBC researchers have also determined how climate change can impact the economic viability of current fisheries practices. Fish stocks are already yielding fewer fish due to overfishing and environmental factors such as pollution.
“Climate change is likely to cause more losses unless we choose to act,” said Rashid Sumaila, principal investigator of the Fisheries Economics Research Unit at UBC and lead author of the study.
A collaboration between economists, biologists and climate-change scientists, the study gives a broad outlook of the effect of climate change on fisheries and their profitability; it was published online in the journal Nature Climate Change. It received the support of the Pew Charitable Trusts, National Geographic, the World Bank and the U.S. National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA).
As waters warm, species move to cooler waters
Warming ocean temperatures have led many species to move farther towards the poles and into deeper and cooler waters. This means that while fishers in a few regions, such as Scandinavia in the far north, may benefit because they will now have more fish to catch, many others, and particularly fishers in the tropics, will lose an important food source along with their livelihoods. (Many fishers in tropical regions are poor and fish to feed themselves and their families.)
Researchers examined regional phenomena to help them find out what could happen on a global scale. For instance, lower catches of pelagic fish (such as sardines and anchovies) in Peru resulting from warmer waters during the 1997-1998 El Niño event caused more than USD 26 million in losses.
“For example, if you think about sardines on the Pacific Coast here: Whenever the temperatures are a bit higher, we see more sardines moving from Mexico through the US to Canada,” Sumaila noted, CBC News reports.
Fish survival is compromised
William Cheung, a biologist at the UBC Fisheries Center, said changes in temperature and ocean chemistry directly and adversely affect the physiology, growth, reproduction and distribution of marine life.
“Fish in warmer waters will probably have a smaller body size, be smaller at first maturity, with higher mortality rates and be caught in different areas,” he explained.
NOAA scientist and co-author Sam Herrick is calling for ongoing studies on how climate change and related factors will shape marine ecosystems and the productivity of fish populations.
Richer fish stocks = better adaptation to change
It was found that the bigger populations are, the better fish can adjust to environmental shifts such as warming temperatures. Minimizing the combined strains from overfishing, habitat degradation, pollution runoff, land-use transformation, competing aquatic resource uses and other anthropogenic factors will also contribute to helping stocks cope with climate change.
“We have to remember that the effect of climate change on the marine environment will occur alongside the impacts on land,” said Daniel Pauly, a UBC fisheries biologist and co-author. “It will not be easy to divert resources from one sector to help another sector. This is why a strong governance system is needed – to temper the losses on the sectors that are worst hit.”
In other words, government officials need to step up and work harder to stop overfishing and illegal fishing, reduce runoff from agriculture and other polluting sources, and fight habitat destruction, among taking other measures.
Take a small step to make a difference
In the meantime, if you eat fish, something you can do is commit to purchasing only sustainably caught seafood. Read more about how to do this here:
Related blog posts on Save Eco Destinations:
- Marine experts spell doom for world’s oceans, Pt. 2
- Marine experts spell doom for world’s oceans, Pt. 1
(This is part one of a two-part series on a report regarding the dismal state of our oceans. Part two of the series tackles the situation’s repercussions on humans and what we can do to help our oceans recover.)
A team of marine experts announced this week a new summary report arguing that climate change and other man-made factors will spur colossal levels of extinction in the world’s oceans. The catastrophe is forecasted to be “unprecedented in human history.”
The proverbial excrement, it seems, is about to hit the fan.
Not surprisingly, it appears that changes in our atmosphere, ecosystems, and habitats across the planet are accelerating too quickly for many species to adapt and be able to survive.
“The speed of change, particularly related to climate change, is so great there simply isn’t time for marine life to adapt to these new conditions,” said Alex Rogers, a professor of conservation biology at the University of Oxford.
He explained that mass extinctions have been tied to considerable changes in the oceans’ carbon systems in the past.
“That’s what we’re bringing about through our own actions today,” he noted, reports ABC News.
Rogers and a team of 26 other researchers from various countries met earlier this year for a three-day workshop in England to study ocean stressors. Their full report is set to be published in the near future.
Ocean stressors at play
Ocean acidification is one key factor. Here’s what it’s about: carbon dioxide (CO2) (along with methane and other gasses) plays a huge role in heating up our planet and thereby causing climate change, which includes melting polar ice caps and rising ocean levels. Okay. What you might not know is that one-third of the planet’s CO2 is absorbed by the ocean, and that the more CO2 the ocean absorbs, the greater the waters’ acidity. This phenomenon is called ocean acidification and it’s noxious to our planet for many reasons. For example, rising acidity levels in our oceans have been found to:
- Impair fish hearing and smell, putting their survival in danger
- Kill off endangered species such as northern abalone
- Threaten the survival of krill, itself the basic food source of nearly all animals in the ocean
Apart from ocean acidification, rising water temperatures, overfishing, pollution, and even tourism are all exacerbating the rapid decline of species such as reef-forming coral. (Go here, here, and here for more on the state of coral reefs.)
Sharks and other species may be next, warned Rogers, lead author of the International Programme on the State of the Ocean (IPSO) report.
Further, he said that, in many cases, the impacts of ocean stressors were found to have a greater overall effect than any single effect when taken together. For example, the decline of coral reef ecosystems due to overfishing and reef bleaching, plus the acidification that causes bleaching, will eradicate “the most diverse marine ecosystems on the planet.”
“As we considered the cumulative effect of what humankind does to the ocean, the implications became far worse than we had individually realized,” Rogers said. “This is a very serious situation demanding unequivocal action at every level.”
Stay tuned for part two of this 2-part series.
Illegal logging is devastating the rainforest on the eastern side of the Peruvian Andes.
Companies are making their way there to chop down old-growth mahogany and other rare species of hardwood trees, profit from them, and leave the land and wildlife – an entire ecosystem – derelict. These asshat loggers also hunt monkeys, birds, and other animals.
The carbon dioxide released from the trees that get chopped down, of course, adds to global warming, or climate change (whichever term you’re most keen on).
After the companies ravage the land, nobody goes back to plant trees where they once used to be. Instead, the areas are taken over by settlers, road builders and farmers.
BioGems Defenders, an organization that works to protect threatened and endangered wildlife and wildlands in the Americas, is made up of networks of people like you (yes, you!) and me – activists. Over 500,000 people now comprise the organization, and contribute to different causes by sending out emails asking for justice. It’s pretty sweet: check out their victories. BioGems Defenders is part of the Natural Resources Defense Council (NRDC).
In 2007, BioGems Defenders helped stop the illegal mahogany trade such that U.S. imports of mahogany from that region decreased tenfold in just a year.
In 2008, U.S. Congress passed legislation banning the import and sale of illegal wood into the country.
BioGems Defenders is now trying to pressure U.S. and Peruvian authorities to eradicate the illegal wood trade altogether.
Please take action here.
Have you asked yourself this—why people don’t care?
We know that people in the South Pacific, such as the islands of Tuvalu, and other low-lying areas are living on land that is sinking (flooding really). Imagine sea water coming up to your knees, your hips…
Food can no longer grow, water is polluted, sewage systems are screwed, hygiene hazards are rampant, and ultimately people must be evacuated lest they die by drowning or other troubles. Elsewhere, droughts turn rich pasture turns into dead, barren land.
It is expected that millions of refugees will need places to go as global warming advances and water takes over the areas of Bangladesh, Calcutta, New York, Florida, and on and on.
So, this is enough to make people care, right? To get a Nalgene bottle and refill it daily instead of wasting myriad resources on purchasing pricy bottled water, to recycle instead of tossing cans in the garbage, to appreciate things more and be less wasteful, to become conscientious.
You’d think so.
So why isn’t it?
Some people think it’s all in the language. The New York Times article claims that environmentalists worry the term “global warming” repels conservatives and others because they associate it with hippies and cutting spending.
The firm conducting the study suggested discussing “our deteriorating atmosphere” to make it, um, more universally relevant. I know, pathetic.
Drop discussions of carbon dioxide and bring up “moving away from the dirty fuels of the past.” Don’t confuse people with cap and trade; use terms like “cap and cash back” or “pollution reduction refund.”
Whatever. Language? If this is truly the case, it’s so funny I forgot to laugh—and chose to ram my head into the wall instead.
“We know why it’s lowest. When someone thinks of global warming, they think of a politicized, polarized argument. When you say ‘global warming,’ a certain group of Americans think that’s a code word for progressive liberals, gay marriage and other such issues.” – ecoAmerica
Oh no! Liberals!
Plus, screw global warming—it will only affect them.
Did I mention “ram my head into the wall”?
So we can’t say global warming, energy efficiency or the environment. Are you kidding me? Ridiculous.
Listen, if your problem is that anything that sounds liberal spooks you, you’ve got more problems than one—particularly when the issue at hand is as imminent as global warming. Swallow and digest it.
Make it personal
Perhaps (and this is my opinion) the point is making the issue clearly and directly relevant to everyone.
Whether it’s threatening that your favorite Caribbean hotel where you spend your ritzy summers will shut down due to flooding or that your beloved ski resort will shut down due to a lack of snow, that is, no matter what kind of selfish jerk you are, the answer lies in making the issue relevant to you.
It makes sense. Not everyone is the underdog type who cares about others because of justice. Most people need to be directly affected by something to even blink. And it really seems that it is most people who need to be shaken up out of their catatonic state.
Changes to make to drive others to change
(FYI: My thoughts are in parentheses.)
Instead of global warming, try climate change (hey, it wasn’t my idea).
Substitute energy efficiency with the purportedly more positive saving money for a more prosperous future.
Drop the environment in favor of the air we breathe, the water our children drink—which right here is an example of making the situation directly relevant to people. Put them in the picture.
Remember to speak in TALKING POINTS aspirational language about shared American ideals, like freedom, prosperity, independence and self-sufficiency while avoiding jargon and details about policy, science, economics or technology – NYT
Switch environmentalists with conservationists (ooh, that feels sleazy).
Forget scientific arguments and stress common sense. (Listen, you need both.)
Use moral arguments—people need to feel guilty to get off their asses, it’s true.
A modest example:
As a conservationist, I urge you to consider saving money for a more prosperous future by turning off the tap when you brush your teeth to conserve water, leaving more for our children and their children to drink. It is our responsibility as Americans/Germans/Brazilians/etc. Think of your family and your friends. Climate change is something we can all collaborate to control through simple common sense.
Yeah, but let me tell you why I don’t like it. Because people should already be concerned and on the go. Because “climate change” sounds less severe than “global warming” (which, already, doesn’t sound critical enough). Because our priorities should lie on mitigating global warming instead of changing our rhetoric to make asshats care.
FYI, here’s a related article I just found while browsing for pictures: Eco-semantics
Here you go. Now go call yourself a conservationist.
I’ve always felt guilty about living in the city (except for the fact that I take public transportation), felt I pollute more here. Although, maybe I just feel that way because the city’s so damn dirty that wearing flip-flops turns my feet black. Eek.
It turns out that, overall, large cities’ greenhouse gas emissions are lower than those of rural areas-much lower. Go figure. Maybe it’s a good idea to vacation in cities, then, and particularly in green ones if you can find them! *Cough* *Cough*
While cities, then, do pollute considerably, rural emissions are more detrimental to the environment because they are largely methane-based rather than carbon dioxide-based, and methane pollutes way more. (Speaking of methane, did you know cattle expel more methane than anything or anyone else on the entire planet? Solution: vegetarianism.)
The way the discrepancy between urban and rural emissions was calculated was through the comparison of 12 large cities around the globe to their respective countries. On average, it was found, cities produce fewer greenhouse gasses than rural areas. It makes sense to me when considering that industrialized countries are loaded with factory farms. Again, cattle emit so much methane it’s obscene. Becoming vegetarian is one of the most efficient ways you can curb your carbon footprint personally and by extension. Not to mention how they pollute soil and water…but I won’t get into that today.
Here’s the list of cities and how badly they’ve scored:
1. Washington, DC, US – 19.7 tonnes of CO2 equivalent
2. Glasgow, UK – 8.4 tonnes
3. Toronto, Canada – 8.2 tonnes
4. Shanghai, China – 8.1 tonnes
5. New York City, US – 7.1 tonnes
6. Beijing, China – 6.9 tonnes
7. London, UK – 6.2 tonnes
8. Tokyo, Japan – 4.8 tonnes
9. Seoul, South Korea – 3.8 tonnes
10. Barcelona, Spain – 3.4 tonnes
11. Rio de Janeiro, Brazil – 2.3 tonnes
12. Sao Paulo, Brazil – 1.5 tonnes
The forecast points to rising sea levels and frequent violent storms leading to flooding.
The Scilly Isles will be taken over by a meter-plus rise of sea water in this century. These isles are particularly vulnerable relative to the UK because they lay isolated, 28 mi. out in the Atlantic from the UK’s mainland.
The so-called Maldives of the Atlantic Ocean are surrounded by submerged islands already, a grim reminder of watery destruction to come. (These surrounding islands were invaded by rising sea levels within the past several centuries.) You can still find archaeological remains. What now constitute hilltops, though, used to stand much higher. How depressing. The Scilly Isles will be the next Tuvalu.
The plan now is mitigation. Personally, I think this shows denial and procrastination. What they should be working on are plans to move residents (11,000 households, folks) out onto higher land. They need to educate the Scilly Isles’ inhabitants about their options-what they can do with their savings, how they could move their belongings to their new homes, where they could establish themselves in the UK, and so on. I imagine that at least Britain, if not the whole UK, will offer these unfortunate people help.
“The bottom line is that we mustn’t bury our heads in the sand,” commented Andrew Davey, an expert on coastal matters for the National Trust.
Right: the sooner the better, so why aren’t they getting their asses in gear? It seems to me like they don’t want to freak people out-but they should! Maybe the very decision-makers are freaking out and they don’t even know it yet, hence the rampant denial and choice of mitigation over sensible action.
But really, if we’re ALL going to wait until the last minute to salvage refugees, we won’t be able to ask each other for help, because we’ll be too caught up helping those nearest us geographically, nationally, and so on. We’ll be donating money to campaigns aiding people in our own country, right? Desperate times lead to protecting your “own” and neglecting everyone else. In desperate times, we don’t think straight.
So why wait it out? Shit.
I’d never heard of something like this before-two countries, Italy and Switzerland, will have representatives meet to agree on new boundaries to divide their lands due to melted Alpine glaciers that used to mark the frontier between them, and are now gone.
I suppose in the (I hope not too) near future we will be hearing more about this-between Argentina and Chile, perhaps the US and Canada, China, Russia, perhaps in Scandinavia (I need a map!).
This is really interesting. How would this affect tourism? What if certain nations decided to team up? Say one country had lots of wind turbines already set up, and the other did not, but was relying on solar power for a lot of its energy and had some to spare? These countries could team up and mutually benefit each other by sharing energy-and perhaps food and other amenities. Climbing temperatures could have unforeseen political consequences, perhaps great ones! Exciting.
Of course, there could also be wars (and probably there will be wars, the universe help us) over desperately coveted natural resources such as potable water (in particular!) and fertile soil. Well, we’d probably have these anyway, but I suspect border-related dilemmas could provide additional fuel to the debates.
And what about residents’ desires? In the Italy/Switzerland scenario, no communities are involved because the borders in question lie 4,000 meters above sea level, in deserted areas unfit for human habitation. I am reminded of the Falkland Islands–geographically and lawfully, they are part of Argentina. Politically, however, they are part of England. When in 1982 Argentina went to war to get the Falklands back (a desperate attempt by the dictator related to staying in power because he was losing control) a few things happened. First, Falkland residents protested against Argentina, saying they were English and wished to remain so. Second, the Argentine soldiers were so ill-equipped they lacked microwaves and such to heat their frozen food and they were inappropriately dressed for the violent cold of the far south. Third and last, in part because of the second point, the English kicked the Argentines’ ass. Argentina has no decent army. They recruited random young men to fight, inexperienced men, and many of them died in miserable conditions.
My point is, when politicians start getting involved in choosing new boundaries, I hope that, to avoid trouble, they seriously consider local residents’ opinions and desires regarding what nation they want to belong to. (I actually think nationality is absurd-you don’t choose where you are born, and you don’t know everyone you share a nation with-it’s an imagined community, an illusion.)
Have you heard of Earth Hour? The idea is that people around the world can do something to fight against global warming by sitting in the dark for an hour drinking beer and throwing peanuts at each other.
Well, if you want to. That’s as much good as it’s gonna do global warming, anyway.
In truth, the idea is to turn the lights off for an hour and head outdoors to do something useful, or at least non-polluting. Bring your friends and family with you. Don’t forget your non-human animal companions! Earth Hour’s goal is to reach 1 billion participants. Supposedly, your actions will influence the fate of the Earth via the Global Climate Change Conference in Copenhagen 2009. Earth Hour thinks that if enough people turn off their lights for 1 hour on 1 single day of the year, politicians will put their greedy interests on the back burner and vote to help stop global warming.
Flip it off on March 28, at 8:30pm local time.
The website reads: “For the first time in history, people of all ages, nationalities, race and background have the opportunity to use their light switch as their vote – Switching off your lights is a vote for Earth, or leaving them on is a vote for global warming.”
Earth Hour started two years ago and bloomed into what some (although I think not I) would call a massive movement. Maybe it’s monumental among certain green groups in the US, I don’t know, but not in the places where I most recently lived in the US, and certainly not where I live now either. I mean, it’s in the paper, but I haven’t heard anyone talking about it. Have you? That’d be nice.
I mostly think these events are rubbish, honestly. Like those “don’t buy gas” or “anti-consumer” days. For something to be effective, it needs to be practiced consistently and regularly, not once a year and for one hour. Spend all this time and energy to teach people how to make a difference in their daily lives, not shut off their lights for 1 measly hour and leave them on while they take naps in front of the television, which will just make these gals and chaps feel absolved of any guilt because “I JOINED EARTH HOUR.”
Additionally, I find it repulsive that corporations like Unilever; YPF, WalMart, Nike, etc. are “supporting¨ the movement. Listen, Unilever, when you stop the vivisection and remove all the carcinogenic compounds from your products, maybe we’ll talk. Goddamn hypocrites.
Do you think I’m wrong? Let me know.