How Climate Change Affects Ecosystems

Climate change can have a great impact on biodiversity (plant and animal species). Species have learned to adapt to changes in their environment for millions of years, and a drastic change in their environment would require more rapid adaptations than in the past. The less adaptable species risk extinction, and the interdependence of both animal and plant species within an ecosystem could unchain a series of events that could highly impact the ecosystems of the world. The following is an outline on how climate change affects ecosystems.

An ecosystem is composed of the living organisms or biotic (animals, plants) inhabiting a region and all the nonliving organisms or abiotic (air, water, soil, etc.) with which these living organisms interact. An ecosystem can be as large as the Amazon rain forest, or as small as a pond. The interaction between these two components of an ecosystem has been elapsing for thousands of years uninterruptedly; however, recently, climate change has disrupted this interaction by causing the migration of some animal species and earlier flowering and leafing of certain plant species.

Without the interdependence in an ecosystem of all the living and nonliving cohabitants, life forms are not able to survive. Predators need of weaker animals to feed from. Predators and prey need water, soil, plants and other animals to support their physiological needs. In order to maintain the balance in an ecosystem, all the components should remain intact. That is to say, that the ecosystem should provide both living and nonliving organisms the necessary means for survival.

Climate change has affected the structures of most ecosystems of the world, for instance, sea levels have increased due to climate change. The snow covers and ice covers of the Northern and Southern hemispheres have decreased, causing rising sea levels. The frequency of rainfall has become more intense, as well as the frequency of intensity of heat waves. Hurricanes in the Caribbean and rising temperatures in the Polar Regions. All these climate changes have a tremendous impact on wild life and their ecosystems.

Climate change may force animals to migrate from their natural habitat to other distant habitats. Humans may adapt to changes in climate, but animals are more likely to go extinct. While some animals and plants may adjust their life-cycle to climate changes, others might just die in the intent. The disruptions due to climate change can affect seasonal behavior and interactions among species; for instance, migrating animals might not be able to find adequate food supplies for their offspring in distant ecosystems.

Climate is an essential component of ecosystems. and organisms within an ecosystem have learned to adapt to their environment overtime; however, climate change has been altering the resources of ecosystems around the world. the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) estimates that 20-30% of species assessed in a study may be at risk of extinction within this century if global mean temperatures exceed 2-3 °C (3.6-5.4 °F).

The Sun is the main source of energy in an ecosystem. Sunlight provides the necessary energy to plants through photosynthesis, the same process that captures carbon dioxide (CO2) which is needed to make organic molecules (sugars). Animals move matter and energy within an ecosystem by feeding on plants and release CO2 as a waste product from respiration. Decomposers release CO2 back into the atmosphere by breaking down dead organic matter. The IPCC fourth assessment report estimates that the atmospheric mixing ratio of CO2 has increased globally by about 100 ppm over the last 250 years.

IPCC has noted that during the course of this century, the ability to adapt of many ecosystems is likely to be exceeded by the consequences of climate change, along with other factors, including deforestation and overexploitation. If green house gases continue to raise, by 2100 ecosystems will be exposed to atmospheric CO2 levels higher than in the past 650,000 years, and global temperatures will become the highest experienced until now. This will alter biodiversity and perturb the function of most ecosystems.