Climate and Wildlife – A Complex Relationship

By Reptile Encounters/22 July 2014

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Climate change is having a devastating effect on our globe, placing our wildlife at ever increasing risk. There are three different ways that climate change affects wildlife:

• Direct Impact – These things are nature-related, such as temperature changes, rainfall, and cyclones.

• Increasing Threats – This includes catastrophes that are a result of direct impacts, such as widespread fire, or invasive species.

• Indirect Threats – A good example of this is humans migrating into an ecosystem that is currently intact with wildlife.

The earth’s climate is in a state of continual transition. The changes are so gradual that many species have time to adapt, compensating for differences in temperature and weather patterns. However human activity, including industrial emissions of carbon dioxide into the atmosphere, has an adverse effect on the environment and climate. When climate changes come at such a rapid pace, animals don’t have time to react or adapt. This disruption to the ecosystem has a much more dramatic effect on animals than it does on humans.

A Small Change Can Bring Big Trouble

Scientists predict that a change to the mean actual temperature by a mere 3°C is the equivalent of moving 500m in elevation, or between 300km and 400km in latitude. Can you imagine moving an entire species that far away from its comfort zone?
While some species may be able to adapt to the change and become more dominant within the overall ecosystem, other species will become vulnerable and at risk for becoming extinct. This is especially true when geographic barriers prevent species migration to a climate that is better suited to their ideal habitat and lifestyle.

Why Changes to Nature Affects Animals

A change of this magnitude also has an impact on vegetation. Animals and birds rely on their habitat for shelter and food, while vegetation rely on wildlife for seed dispersal and pollination. A disruption in the co-dependent relationship between nature and wildlife puts the entire ecosystem in jeopardy.

The World Wildlife Fund Australia states: “Australia already has the worst rate of mammal extinction in the world. Almost 40 per cent of mammal extinctions globally in the last 200 years have occurred in Australia. This incredible continent is losing species at an unprecedented rate and, as most species found here aren’t found anywhere else, the loss of Australian species is a loss for the whole world.”

How You Can Help Preserve Australian Wildlife

It might seem like you have no power over saving an entire species. But when humans work together, they can prevent extinction and reverse the damage that has already been done. You can help just by the things you do every day as part of a healthy, eco-friendly lifestyle.

Switching off lights and unused appliances or electronics when you leave the room help reduce carbon emissions, which affect climate change. Shorter showers and solar hot water systems help preserve water. You could also switch to renewable energy or take public transport instead of driving.
Another great way of helping our native animals is to support conservation, this could be in the form of a financial donation, signing a petition or even donating unwanted blankets to your local wildlife carer.

Conservation through Education

You can also help by raising awareness within your community about the need to address these important issues. Reptile Encounters is proud to be at the forefront of wildlife conservation. Our programs educate thousands every year about the impacts humans are having on our unique native animals, ecosystem and planet. To beat climate change we all need to make a change!