Biodiversity loss and climate change
A devastating impact on nature’s gems
Biodiversity loss and climate change are two of the greatest global crises of our time. This is why the Ministry for the Environment, Climate Change and Planning, through the #ClimateOn campaign, will be exploring more issues relating to climate change. Here’s an overview of the issues we are facing.
Our planet is home to millions of species, from the smallest bacteria to the largest mammals. This variety of life is called biodiversity. Species have evolved over millions of years to form complex relationships, adapted to exist in unique habitats and intricately linked ecosystems. Working and functioning together, they deliver ecosystem services like pollination, water purification, coastal protection, nutrient cycling, carbon capturing and climate regulation, amongst others – these are our life support systems.
Although surely priceless, studies have attempted to estimate the value of ecosystem services within the European Union, which has been identified at €200 and €300 billion per year.
Over the course of human history, nature and biodiversity have suffered great losses from overexploitation, deforestation for agricultural land, poaching, pollution and unfortunately the list goes on and on. This has led to the fastest rate of extinction of species in Earth’s history, with an estimated one million species now threatened with extinction.
Biodiversity loss and climate change are two of the greatest global crises of our time. The two intensify each other. At the current rate, climate change will continue magnifying habitat and biodiversity loss, changing species composition of ecosystems. This could stop ecosystems from functioning and delivering those vital services, including natural climate regulation. Experts also expect that the combination of habitat and biodiversity loss and climate change could increase the risk of future pandemics.
As the planet has been warming and the climate changing, we have seen changes in nature. In some species, distribution ranges are expanding, and for others shrinking, as temperature and seasonal patterns shift. Plant and animal species are either forced to migrate in search of a more suitable climate they are adapted to, or simply die out.
Changes in the timing of seasons puts breeding and hatching cycles of some species out of sync with the rhythm of other species whose existence depends on them. Migrating species may encroach into new ecosystems and outcompete the existing species for food. Ultimately all these changes begin unravelling the delicate structure of the food chain. This is an oversimplification of course – in reality ecosystem processes and alterations induced by climate change are incredibly complicated and we are still trying to fully understand them.
Unfortunately, climate change is happening at a faster rate than species are able to adapt. For example, some fish populations are migrating in search of their prey or the water temperatures they prefer. This is a phenomenon that we are also witnessing in the Mediterranean. The situation creates further complications for fishermen and governments, especially because wildlife knows no national borders. Therefore, some countries are experiencing the loss of important natural living resources that they once were used to having in abundance.
Considerable damage to our biodiversity has already been done. However, science has shown us that nature can make remarkable recoveries, if given the opportunity and enough time to thrive. Nature based solutions and adaptation can be done through conservation, restoration, integrating nature into our urban areas and by shifting to sustainable practices. Making such changes will help give biodiversity a better chance of adapting to climate change, whilst continuing to perform their functions and deliver the services we need, and ultimately, continue to regulate our climate.
The Ministry for the Environment, Climate Change and Planning, through the #ClimateOn Campaign will be exploring more issues relating to Climate Change. Follow us on Facebook and Instagram to find out more. #ClimateOn
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