IUCN Names 10 Species on Climate Change “Hit List"
While polar bears are commonly cited as being strongly and adversely affected by climate change, on the ground experts from the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) are seeing evidence of thousands of other species already being affected. Yesterday (14 December 2009), the IUCN issued a "hit list" of ten other flagship species being hardest hit by climate change.
It issued the report, Species and Climate Change, at a press conference in Copenhagen, Denmark.
“Humans are not the only ones whose fate is at stake here in Copenhagen – some of our favourite species are also taking the fall for our CO2 emissions,” said Wendy Foden in a press release issued by IUCN. "This report should act as a wake-up call to governments to make real commitments to cut CO2 emissions if we are to avoid a drastically changed natural world. We simply don’t have the time for drawn-out political wrangling. We need strong commitments and we need them now.”
See the press briefing video below.
The ten Ten flagship species being impacted by climate change:
Staghorn corals: Coral bleaching from warming ocean temperatures coupled with ocean acidification is making this species very vulnerable. See the IUCN fact sheet on Staghorn Corals and Climate Change [PDF].
Ringed seals: The entire seal lifecycle relies on ice (they almost never come onto land) and the rapid ice loss in the Arctic is causing the seal pups to be prematurely separated from their mothers during the milking period. This along with their inability to build dens for protection is leading to high pup mortality. See the IUCN fact sheet on Ringed Seals and Climate Change [PDF].
Leatherback sea turtles: Increased temperatures during leatherback’s incubation period (time spent within the egg) is causing skewed sex ratios. Warmer temperatures generate more females. See the IUCN fact sheet on Leatherback Turtles and Climate Change [PDF].
Emperor Penguins: These penguins, well known from the March of the Penguins documentary, embark on long winter marches to their breeding colonies. If the ice on which these breeding grounds reside starts to breakup, it disrupts their breeding habits. This also endangers the young if they are forced prematurely into the cold water. See the IUCN fact sheet on Emperor Penguins and Climate Change [PDF].
Quiver trees: These giant desert aloes in Southern Africa are being stressed by drought in the equator portion on their range. While the polar-side of their range is opening up, trees (like many slow moving species) cannot move quickly enough into new habitable regions. See the IUCN fact sheet on Quiver Trees and Climate Change [PDF].
Clownfish: Nemo from Finding Nemo is a type of clownfish. These fish are impacted from bleaching corals—their habitat for protection and breeding grounds—and ocean acidification. Acidification is affecting their sense of smell which is how these fish find their way back home. See the IUCN fact sheet on Clownfish and Climate Change [PDF].
Arctic Fox: Their Arctic habitat is decreasing, prey species populations are collapsing and physically larger red foxes are moving into their ranges, which both feeds on Arctic foxes and competes for food sources. See the IUCN fact sheet on the Arctic Foxes and Climate Change [PDF].
Salmon: Rising stream temperatures is physically stressing these fish along with stream flow changes from altered snow formation and melting. See the IUCN fact sheet on Salmon and Climate Change [PDF].
Koala: The rising level of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere is affecting the Koala’s food source—eucalyptus leaves. Higher atmospheric CO2 levels are reducing nutrient levels in those leaves. With less nutritious leaves, Koalas are weakened and more vulnerable to disease. See the IUCN fact sheet on Koalas and Climate Change [PDF].
Beluga whale: With the decline in Arctic sea ice opening the region to maritime transportation, oil exploration and mining, direct exposure to the increase in human activity will have a significant impact. See the IUCN fact sheet on Beluga Whales and Climate Change [PDF].
See this video showing each of the ten species highlighted by IUCN:
“Several of the species highlighted in the report are already listed as threatened on the IUCN Red List of Threatened Species, due to other threats such as habitat destruction or over harvesting,” said Jean-Christophe Vié, Deputy Head of IUCN’s Species Programme, in the IUCN press release. “Others are not currently threatened on the IUCN Red List, but will be very soon as the effects of climate change materialise. For a large portion of biodiversity, climate change is an additional and major threat.”
According to the report:
"Climate change does not commit these species to extinction. Species can usually adapt if conditions change sufficiently slowly. Worsening climate change effects are inevitable because of the lag-effects of the greenhouse gasses that we’ve already emitted. But it is not too late. If our governments commit to strong and timely targets to reduce emissions, and adhere to them, we can slow the pace of climate change and give these and other species a chance to survive."
- From IUCN:
- Species on climate change hit list named. Press release (14 Dec 2009).
- Species and Climate Change [PDF].
- References [PDF] on climate change impacts on the 10 species listed above.
- Species and Climate Change: More than just the Polar Bear.
- Red List of Threatened Species [PDF]
- Species Program and SSC.
- Information on how species are being impacted where you live.