Climate change will cause the extinction of these species

Not only polar bears are at risk of extinction because of high temperatures

Despite the efforts of world leaders to stop the accelerated Climate Change of the planet that is generated by global warming, the consequences in the animal kingdom for some species are much more severe than for the human species.

"Humans are a very plastic species, that is, we adapt to almost any climate, we can live in the majority of altitudinal ranges. We can adapt to live from Lima at sea level, to La Rinconada the city located in the Peruvian Andes to more than 5000, we settled from the Ecuator to glacial zones", says biologist Catalina Moreno. However, not all animal species are as plastic or adaptable as humans, who develop mechanisms to protect both cold and extreme heat, although the concept of "extreme" has taken on a new dimension from the incredible record supported by Australia in the first days of 2018 reaching a temperature of 47 degrees Celsius and at the same time the low temperatures that hit the east coast of the United States.

A brief and superficial journey through the animal kingdom shows us that climate change is responsible for the displacement of some species and the possible extinction of others.

Catalina Moreno believes that "the global icon of climate change is the polar bear, this species is at risk thanks to the drastic change in the temperatures of the Earth, but it is not the only one that suffers the consequences of the transformation in the composition of our atmosphere”. She adds that "if the average temperature of the planet exceeds two degrees centigrade with respect to the average temperature in the pre-industrial era, the consequences will be catastrophic for the human species and for what we recognize as a civilization, but only half a degree centigrade will generate altering factors in other species much more serious because they could lead to extinction". 

Anyone could see polar circle species as the most vulnerable to climate change by the melting of glaciers: polar bears, penguins, sea lions, seals and countless others. However, the melting of the poles does not affect only its circle, the impact is felt throughout the planet to the Ecuator.

"One of the examples of the most charismatic animals in the world is the Bengal tiger that inhabits the regions of Bangladesh and northern India, the melting of the poles increases the level of the sea that in that area rises on average about four millimeters and it is predicted that by the year 2060 its natural habitat will be flooded, destroyed, this is a clear sign that there are two possibilities of survival, either you adapt or you extinguish".

In the case of reptiles, which are subject to a biological system of room temperature during the incubation of the eggs to determine their sex at birth, turtles, crocodiles and some lizards are susceptible to this mechanism of nature. The sea turtles for example, if their nest is less than 25 degrees Celsius, all the specimens of will be males, and if the average temperature ranges between 26 and 30 degrees, they will all be females. With the crocodiles, the equation is the inverse, if the temperatures exceed 27 degrees, they will all be males. Conditions of extreme heat or cold in the different species of reptiles that are subject to the "determination of sex by temperature" end with whole generations of only males or only females, as the case may be, which obviously prevents the procreation of new individuals.

The IPCC (Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change) makes estimates for the end of the century through "possible scenarios" calculated through the Representative Concentration Trajectories (RCP), it is the final scenario that can occur in the planet according to the concentration of CO2 contained in the atmosphere. At present we have concentrations higher than 400 particles per million (ppm) of CO2 in the atmosphere, the most optimistic scenario is the RCP 2.6, but some more realistic talk about a possible scenario of RCP 6.0 or even RCP 8.5.

Mark Urban, biologist and researcher at the University of Connecticut, has compiled more than a hundred studies that show the connection between global warming and the consequences such as the extinction of some species, the results obtained are not at all encouraging. For the RCP 8.5 scenario the increase in global temperature will be 3.7 degrees Celsius on average and Urban estimates that the extinction will be 15.7% of the species on the planet. The areas most affected by mass extinction will be New Zealand and Australia in the Eastern Hemisphere and South America in the Western Hemisphere, all to the south of the Ecuator, where nearly 70% of the world's biodiversity is concentrated.


Latin American Post | Alberto Castaño Camacho

Copy edited by Laura Rocha Rueda