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Saturday, April 19, 2008

How Does Global Warming Affect Wildlife?

The National Wildlife Federation considers global warming to be "the most dangerous threat to the future of wildlife." Here are just some of the species being dramatically impacted by global warming.

Learn how global warming affects the adelie penguin

Adelie Penguins
When many of us think of Antarctica, it is with visions of waddling, tuxedoed penguins. Today, however, these iconic creatures may be in peril as a result of changes to their climate. Rising temperatures are causing the amount of sea ice to diminish, which in turn causes the amount of algae in the water to decrease. Many tiny organisms, including the krill shrimp which forms the foundation of the Adelie penguin’s diet, cannot survive without this important food source.

Learn how global warming affects the caribou

Caribou
Almost everyone knows how annoying mosquitoes can be, but if you happen to be a caribou, these common summertime pests can have an even bigger impact. This is because warming Arctic temperatures have caused an explosion in these insects' populations. As caribou expend more energy shooing the pests away, they decrease the amount of food that they eat and energy that they conserve in preparation for the coming winter months. Female caribou are particularly at risk as the effort of birthing and raising the new generation takes enormous energy.

Learn how global warming affects the monarch butterfly

Monarch Butterflies
Brilliant orange and black monarchs are among the most easily-recognizable of the butterfly species which call the Americas home. Their migration takes them as far north as Canada and, during the winter months, as far south as Mexico City. It is here that changing conditions could cause their demise if current climatic trends continue into the future. In Mexico, the butterflies amass themselves in fir trees which provide shelter from rain and temperatures which often dip below freezing. As rainfall worldwide continues to increase, the protection that these trees provide may not be enough to shield the butterflies from these hazards. One mass die-off occurred in 2002; scientists fear that this is the first of many similar incidents.

Learn how global warming affects the Western tanager

Migratory Songbirds
The songs of many migratory birds, such as this Western tanager, are welcomed symbols of springtime. Warmer seasons worldwide may mean that you won’t be hearing some of those old familiar songs in years to come, however, as songbirds are particularly sensitive to changes to both temperatures and their habitats.

Learn how global warming affects the polar bear

Polar Bears
Polar bears, like their favored springtime prey the ringed seal, depend heavily on sea ice for their survival. Polar bears move from ice flow to ice flow in search of the young seals. With rising temperatures, the thinning ice leaves fewer places for both the polar bears to hunt and the seals to raise their young.

Learn how global warming affects trout

Trout
Coldwater fish, such as trout, depend on a frigid mixture of spring and glacier water to thrive. As North American temperatures continue to rise, trout stand to lose three-quarters of their current habitat. Before long, an enitre generation of Anglers will have lost the the ability to bond with friends and family while communing with nature.

Learn how global warming affects coral reefs

Coral Reefs
Coral reefs are colorful underwater forests which teem with life and act as a natural protective barrier for coastal regions. The fishes and plants which call them home belong to some of the most diverse – and fragile – ecosystems on the planet. In one year alone, sixteen percent of the world’s coral reefs were wiped out. A sea temperature change of a mere one degree Celsius would yield similar losses. Increasing levels of carbon dioxide in the water cause additional damage to corals, leaving them defenseless against storm damage and erosion.

Learn how global warming affects the arctic fox

Arctic Foxes
The arctic fox is a marvel or environmental adaptation. Its paws are covered with thick fur to protect its feet in winter, and it is an excellent burrower which allows it to dig dens and warm itself against the arctic chill. In recent years, warmer temperatures have driven the arctic fox farther and farther north in search of more suitable, cooler habitat.

Do your part to help reduce global warming by taking the Good Neighbor Pledge today!


Next step: Watch a video on global warming and wildlife

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