John Wilson; Richard Primack

Published On


Page Range

pp. 167-202

Print Length

35 pages

6. Our Warming World

While climate change is often thought of as a future challenge, we can already see its impacts today, as shown by record-high temperatures and changing rainfall patterns. These changes are happening because human activities release large amounts of greenhouse gases into the atmosphere on a daily basis. Habitat loss also contributes to climate change directly through the destruction of complex ecosystems (i.e. carbon sinks) which releases stored CO2, and indirectly through the loss of vegetation that would otherwise sequester CO2 from the atmosphere. Furthermore, some climatic shifts are predicted to be so rapid in coming decades that many species will be unable to adjust their ranges to keep up with environmental changes. At especially high risk of extinction are species with dispersal limitations, special habitat requirements, and important mutualistic relationships. Mitigating the negative impacts of climate change will require an international multi-pronged approach that includes ecosystem protection and restoration, direct species management, and legislative action. For, species are seldom exposed to only one threat; rather, different threats interact with climate change so that their combined impact is greater than their individual effects. A successful conservation strategy needs to deal with these threats collectively.