2002 - Article
reproduced with kind permission of The
LGVN Environment - Global Warming
special report from The World Wide Fund for Nature
UK - Global warming could fundamentally alter one third of plant
and animal habitats by the end of this century, and cause the eventual
extinction of certain plant and animal species, according to a recent
study released by WWF, the conservation organization.
'Global Warming and Terrestrial Biodiversity Decline', says that
in the northern latitudes of Canada, Russia and Scandinavia, where
warming is predicted to be most rapid, up to 70 percent of habitat
could be lost. Russia, Canada, Kyrgystan, Norway, Sweden, Finland,
Latvia, Uruguay, Bhutan and Mongolia are likely to loose 45 per
cent or more of current habitat while many coastal and island species
will be at risk from the combined threat of warming oceans, sea-level
rise and range shifts.
warming accelerates, plants and animals will come under increasing
pressure to migrate to find suitable habitat. Some will just not
be able to move fast enough," said Adam Markham, Executive Director
of a US NGO, Clean Air-Cool Planet, one of the co-authors of the
report. "In some places, plants would need to move ten times faster
than they did during the last ice age merely to survive. It is likely
that global warming will mean extinction for some plants and animals.
at risk are those that are rare or live in isolated or fragmented
habitats. They include the rare Gelada baboon in Ethiopia, the mountain
pygmy possum of Australia, the monarch butterfly at its Mexican
wintering grounds, and the spoon-billed sandpiper at its breeding
sites in Russia's arctic far east. In the Untied States, most of
the northern spruce and fir forest of New England and New York State
could ultimately be lost. In patches of habitat that do survive,
local species loss may be as high as 20 per cent in the most vulnerable
mountain ecosystems such as northern Alaska, Russia's Tamyr Peninsula
and south-eastern Australia.
predictions are based on a moderate estimate that concentrations
of carbon dioxide (CO2) in the atmosphere will double from pre-industrial
levels during this century. However, some projections suggest a
three-fold increase in concentrations by 2100 unless action is taken
to rein in the inefficient use of coal, oil and gas for energy production.
In this case, the effects on nature could be even more dramatic.
Already, Costa Rica's golden toad has probably become extinct. Birds
such as the great tit in Scotland and the Mexican jay in Arizona
are beginning to breed earlier in the year; butterflies are shifting
their ranges northwards throughout Europe; and mammals in many parts
of the Arctic - including polar bears, walrus and caribou - are
beginning to feel the impacts of reduced sea ice and warming tundra
"This is a
wake-up call to world leaders - if they do not act to stop global
warming, wildlife around the globe may suffer the consequences.
World leaders must give top priority to reducing levels of carbon
pollution by stepping up action and preventing a catastrophe that
could change the world as we know it," said Jennifer Morgan, Director
of WWF's Climate Change Campaign.
For more detailed
information on the consequences of global warming for particular
species, consult WWF's
to tell world leaders to use November's climate summit to reduce
the pollution that causes global warming.
with kind permission of The
toad credit: WWF/R Malenki
The WWF are
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