The environment is changing. The question is – should we be worried? After all, the only consistent thing in life is that things are always changing. This is just as true in nature as it is in our daily lives.
For better or worse, all living things have always been at the mercy of evolutionary pressures arising from the changing environment. This begs the question, are the recent changes we hear so much about really such a big deal? The answer is yes.
A great many scientists feel that these changes are beginning to happen at an unprecedented breakneck pace. How wildlife will be able to adapt or survive in the face of these changes is unknown.
We do have data but the experts who have studied evolution, geologic records and much more are not able to fully illustrate the compounded future effects we are bound to see. Future impacts on biodiversity will almost surely be severe and far-reaching.
All kinds of problems are increasingly seen across a wide array of both land and sea creatures. Here are a few examples of wildlife suffering due to current environmental shifts:
California Sea Lions
Sea lions are a symbol of joy and have a childlike demeanor that is absolutely wonderful. There is probably no creature as cute and as charming as a sea lion, which is why imagining large numbers dying of cancer is heartbreaking.
An increase in a specific type of cancer diagnosis (epithelial-cell carcinomas of urogenital origin)in these wonderful creatures is attributed to environmental changes. The problem is not dire as the sea lions are not endangered but this trend points to issues we cannot ignore.
Majestic and stunning, polar bears are a favorite of many animal-lovers. But, our love for their gorgeous white fur and adorable faces has not altered our species’ negative effects on this amazing animal.
Polar bears joined the endangered species list in 2008. They have been deeply affected by climate change due to their icy habitat. They need ice to hunt seals, which are their main source of nourishment. They also require vast home ranges they need for their foraging behaviors. Other creatures like walruses and other arctic animals also face challenges with retreating and diminishing ice.
Salmon need cold, fast streams and rivers to spawn and altering stream flows and warming waters are impacting some salmon populations. In addition, increasing temperatures have allowed a harmful salmon parasite to invade Alaska’s Yukon River impacting fishing as well as the health of the salmon.
The Mount Graham red squirrel
Rare animals with limited habitats have serious challenges. The relatively small population of squirrel lives on a single mountain in Arizona. They live on “green islands” which are pushed higher as temps rise and push these animals out of their habitat. They are not the only species living on these green islands and many will be affected as climate change continues. Another mountain creature (in the Rocky Mountains) called theyellow-bellied marmothas advanced its emergence from hibernation more than 3 weeks which can be presumed to be connected to global warming.
They are beautiful and serene, which is why they have become a symbol of the sea. However, many sea turtle species and are vulnerable to sea-level rise, increased storms, weather changes and changing temperatures. These factors affect nesting, foraging, and important sea turtle habitats. There is so much information out there about the state of the environment, climate change, and the health of our planet. It can be hard to know what is true and what is exaggerated. But, the above creatures and their specific experiences clearly illustrate the problems associated with environmental changes. Change is happening, and we need to do something before it is too late.