By Christopher Round
We all know the story about how polar bears could go extinct since their habitat is melting from global warming, but most people don’t realize that inherently this is what is happening to species worldwide. You see, most species have a specific niche carved out in their ecosystem. Some species don’t have a very specialized niche, like how deer will eat just about any plant they can fit in their mouth. Other species can be extremely specialized, such as insects that only pollinate one or two flowers. By changing the temperature a few degrees, it impacts the conditions that are most favorable for different species. While changing your thermostat a few degrees in your might not feel like much of a change, for species around the world such warming will have serious impacts.
Take for instance reptiles. The determination of whether most reptiles will be male or female is based on temperature. As climate change makes the earth warmer, there could species of reptiles wiped out due to imbalances in the number of males and females. This actually particularly dangerous to sea turtles, who historically lay their eggs in the same places generation after generation. Changes in temperatures will change the distribution of species as well.
Many species will just shift where they live to cope with changing temperatures. Some species however won’t be able to do that. Species that live on islands or at specific altitudes in mountain ranges could eventually become trapped. Even species on the mainland continents could run across barriers preventing migration. Species like the Florida Key Deer may no longer have a habitat, and the entire species would have to be literally moved onto the mainland.
So how does climate change impact endangered species? It really depends on what species we are talking about, as some may simply migrate to new habitats. Others however could be trapped, with either their habitat going underwater or their desired ecosystem disappearing and out of their reach. Some are worse off, as the temperature changes will happen too quickly for them to adapt. This all means that conservation biologists in the 21st century have their work cut out for them.