EFI: Climate change is already altering the environment. Long-lived ecosystems such as forests are particularly vulnerable to the comparatively rapid changes in the climate system. A new international study published this week in Nature Climate Change shows that damage from wind, bark beetles, and wildfires has increased drastically in Europe’s forests in recent years. “Disturbances like windthrow and forest fires are part of the natural dynamics of forest ecosystems, and are not, therefore, a catastrophe for the ecosystem as such. However, these disturbances have intensified considerably in recent decades, which increasingly challenges the sustainable management of forest ecosystems”, says Rupert Seidl, BOKU Vienna, the principal researcher involved in the study.
LANCELOT IS NOW ONLINE
Lancelot is the web application designed and produced by the Euro-Mediterranean Center on climate Change (CMCC) to provide an interactive, dynamic and integrated visualization of climate data on maps for a vast and differentiated audience. Select your indicators and explore hystorical data and climate projections provided by CMCC.
Imperial College London: A new study has shed fresh light on how climate change will affect global biodiversity by exploring different measurements of climate change together.
Scientists use climate change metrics, such as changes in seasonality or the emergence of new climates, to predict how climate change will impact biodiversity levels. These climate change metrics are typically studied in isolation, so it is difficult to accurately predict how changes in climate might impact levels of biodiversity.
For the very first time, a study published today in the journal Science has compared climate change metrics together, instead of in isolation, on a global scale, to look at how biodiversity will be impacted. This unique comparison reveals that when multiple dimensions of climate change are studied together, different regions emerge as threatened by different aspects of climate change. For example, this new research predicts that tropical areas are set to experience novel climates, much hotter than today’s tropical climates, that are not currently experienced by species anywhere on Earth. Such climates are projected to affect up to 62 per cent of the world’s tropical areas.
R. A. Garcia, M. Cabeza, C. Rahbek, M. B. Araujo. Multiple Dimensions of Climate Change and Their Implications for Biodiversity. Science, 2014; 344 (6183): 1247579 DOI: 10.1126/science.1247579
A NOAA-led research team has found the first evidence that acidity of continental shelf waters off the West Coast is dissolving the shells of tiny free-swimming marine snails, called pteropods, which provide food for pink salmon, mackerel and herring, according to a new paper published in Proceedings of the Royal Society B.
Researchers estimate that the percentage of pteropods in this region with dissolving shells due to ocean acidification has doubled in the nearshore habitat since the pre-industrial era and is on track to triple by 2050 when coastal waters become 70 percent more corrosive than in the pre-industrial era due to human-caused ocean acidification.
Limacina helicina shell dissolution as an indicator of declining habitat suitability owing to ocean acidification in the California Current Ecosystem.
N. Bednaršek, R. A. Feely, J. C. P. Reum, B. Peterson, J. Menkel, S. R. Alin and B. Hales
Published 30 April 2014 doi: 10.1098/rspb.2014.0123 Proc. R. Soc. B 22 June 2014 vol. 281 no. 1785 20140123
New Ocean Acidification website launched
A new online resource on Ocean Acidification has been launched that brings together new ocean acidification infographics, publications, background information, presentations and news for researchers, policymakers and the public.
Ocean acidification by numbers:
40%: The increase in atmospheric carbon dioxide (CO2) levels since the start of the industrial revolution.
26%: The increase in ocean acidity from preindustrial levels to today.
24 million: The number of tonnes of CO2 the ocean absorbs every day.
10 times: The current rate of acidification is over 10 times faster than any time in the last 55 million years.
The website ocean-acidification.net has been developed by the International Geosphere-Biosphere Programme (IGBP), the Intergovernmental Oceanographic Commission (IOC-UNESCO), the Scientific Committee on Oceanic Research (SCOR) and the Ocean Acidification International Coordination Center (OA-ICC) operated by the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA)’s Environmental Laboratories in Monaco.
Song Feng of the University of Arkansas in the US and colleagues in Nebraska, China and South Korea have taken a long cool look at what the projected patterns of warming are likely to do to the planet’s mosaic of climate types. And they predict dramatic changes.
University of Arkansas: Climate Study Projects Major Changes in Vegetation Distribution by 2100
CSIRO: In research published today in the journal Nature, CSIRO and an international team of scientists revealed global maps showing how fast and in which direction local climates are shifting. This new study points to a simpler way of looking at climatic changes and their likely effects on biodiversity.
As climate change unfolds over the next century, plants and animals will need to adapt or shift locations to track their ideal climate. “The maps show areas where plants and animals may struggle to find a new home in a changing climate and provide crucial information for targeting conservation efforts,” CSIRO’s Dr Elvira Poloczanska said.
The study analysed 50 years of sea surface and land temperature data (1960-2009) and also investigated two future scenarios for marine environments (‘business as usual’ and a 1.75°C temperature increase). The new maps show where new thermal environments are being generated and where existing environments may disappear.
Nature | Letter
Geographical limits to species-range shifts are suggested by climate velocity
Biologists from the Alfred Wegener Institute, Helmholtz Centre for Polar and Marine Research (AWI) have for the first time shown that amphipods from the warmer Atlantic are now reproducing in Arctic waters to the west of Spitsbergen. This surprising discovery indicates a possible shift of the Arctic zooplankton community, scientists report in the journal Marine Ecology Progress Series. The primary victims of this “Atlantification” are likely to be marine birds, fish and whales. The reason is that the migrating amphipods measure around one centimetre, and so are smaller than the respective Arctic species; this makes them less nutritious prey.
Kraft A, Nöthig EM, Bauerfeind E, Wildish DJ and others (2013) First evidence of reproductive success in a southern invader indicates possible community shifts among Arctic zooplankton. Mar Ecol Prog Ser 493:291-296
ScienceDaily: In a major new international report, experts conclude that the acidity of the world’s ocean may increase by around 170% by the end of the century bringing significant economic losses. People who rely on the ocean’s ecosystem services — often in developing countries — are especially vulnerable.
The summary for policymakers makes 21 statements about ocean acidification with a range of confidence levels from “very high” to “low.”
Very high confidence
*Ocean acidification is caused by carbon dioxide emissions from human activity to the atmosphere that end up in the ocean.
*The capacity of the ocean to act as a carbon sink decreases as it acidifies
*Reducing carbon dioxide emissions will slow the progress of ocean acidification.
*Anthropogenic ocean acidification is currently in progress and is measurable
*The legacy of historical fossil fuel emissions on ocean acidification will be felt for centuries.
*If carbon dioxide emissions continue on the current trajectory, coral reef erosion is likely to outpace reef building some time this century.
*Cold-water coral communities are at risk and may be unsustainable.
*Molluscs (such as mussels, oysters and pteropods) are one of the groups most sensitive to ocean acidification.
*The varied responses of species to ocean acidification and other stressors are likely to lead to changes in marine ecosystems, but the extent of the impact is difficult to predict.
*Multiple stressors compound the effects of ocean acidification.
*Negative socio-economic impacts on coral reefs are expected, but the scale of the costs is uncertain.
*Declines in shellfisheries will lead to economic losses, but the extent of the losses is uncertain.
*Ocean acidification may have some direct effects on fish behaviour and physiology.
*The shells of marine snails known as pteropods, an important link in the marine food web, are already dissolving.
This summary for policymakers reports on the state of scientific knowledge on ocean acidification, based on the latest research presented at The Third Symposium on the Ocean in a High-CO2 World, held in Monterey, California, in September 2012. Experts present the projected changes from ocean acidification for ecosystems and the people who rely on them, according to levels of confidence for these outcomes.
Parts of Pacific Warming 15 Times Faster Than in Past 10,000 Years
Columbia University: A recent slowdown in global warming has led some skeptics to renew their claims that industrial carbon emissions are not causing a century-long rise in Earth’s surface temperatures. But rather than letting humans off the hook, a new study in the leading journal Science adds support to the idea that the oceans are taking up some of the excess heat, at least for the moment. In a reconstruction of Pacific Ocean temperatures in the last 10,000 years, researchers have found that its middle depths have warmed 15 times faster in the last 60 years than they did during apparent natural warming cycles in the previous 10,000.
Pacific Ocean Heat Content During the Past 10,000 Years
Science 1 November 2013: Vol. 342 no. 6158 pp. 617-621 DOI: 10.1126/science.1240837
Guardian: A polar bear attack in Canada that left two people injured has brought new warnings from scientists of a dangerous rise in human-bear encounters in a warming Arctic. The friends had just walked out of the door in the pre-dawn hours after a party when the young polar bear crept up behind them, unheard and unseen. More
Phys.org : Ecological and societal disruptions by modern climate change are critically determined by the time frame over which climates shift. Camilo Mora and colleagues in the College of Social Sciences’ Department of Geography at the University of Hawaii, Manoa have developed one such time frame. The study, entitled “The projected timing of climate departure from recent variability,” will be published in the October 10 issue of Nature and provides an index of the year when the mean climate of any given location on Earth will shift continuously outside the most extreme records experienced in the past 150 years.
The projected timing of climate departure from recent variability
Camilo Mora, Abby G. Frazier, Ryan J. Longman, Rachel S. Dacks, Maya M. Walton, Eric J. Tong, Joseph J. Sanchez, Lauren R. Kaiser, Yuko O. Stender, James M. Anderson,
Christine M. Ambrosino, Iria Fernandez-Silva, Louise M. Giuseffi & Thomas W. Giambelluca
Received 25 April 2013 Accepted 06 August 2013 Published online 09 October 2013
Princeton: Scientists expect climate change and warmer oceans to push the fish that people rely on for food and income into new territory. Predictions of where and when species will relocate, however, are based on broad expectations about how animals will move and have often not played out in nature. New research based at Princeton University shows that the trick to more precise forecasts is to follow local temperature changes.
The researchers report in the journal Science the first evidence that sea creatures consistently keep pace with “climate velocity,” or the speed and direction in which changes such as ocean temperature move. They compiled 43 years of data related to the movement of 128 million animals from 360 species living around North America, including commercial staples such as lobster, shrimp and cod. They found that 70 percent of shifts in animals’ depth and 74 percent of changes in latitude correlated with regional-scale fluctuations in ocean temperature. read more
Marine Taxa Track Local Climate Velocities
New research from the University of Exeter and the University of East Anglia (UEA) shows that rising ocean temperatures will upset natural cycles of carbon dioxide, nitrogen and phosphorous. Plankton plays an important role in the ocean’s carbon cycle by removing half of all CO2 from the atmosphere during photosynthesis and storing it deep under the sea – isolated from the atmosphere for centuries.
Findings published in the journal Nature Climate Change reveal that water temperature has a direct impact on maintaining the delicate plankton ecosystem of our oceans. The new research means that ocean warming will impact plankton, and in turn drive a vicious cycle of climate change. read more
Alfred Wegener Inst: Biologists at the Alfred Wegener Institute, Helmholtz Centre for Polar and Marine Research (AWI), have therefore assessed the extent of this ominous change for the first time. In a new study they compiled and analysed all available data on the reaction of marine animals to ocean acidification. The scientists found that whilst the majority of animal species investigated are affected by ocean acidification, the respective impacts are very specific. The AWI-researchers present their results as an Advance Online Publication on Sunday 25 August 2013 in Nature Climate Change.
The oceans absorb more than a quarter of anthropogenic carbon dioxide emitted to the atmosphere. They form a natural store without which the Earth would now be a good deal warmer. But their storage capacities are limited and the absorption of carbon dioxide is not without consequence. Carbon dioxide dissolves in water, forms carbonic acid and causes the pH value of the oceans to drop – which affects many sea dwellers. In recent years much research has therefore been conducted on how individual species react to the carbon dioxide enrichment and the acidifying water. So far the overall extent of these changes on marine animals has been largely unknown. read more
Sensitivities of extant animal taxa to ocean acidification
Astrid C. Wittmann & Hans-O. Pörtner
Further information on research into ocean acidification at the Alfred Wegener Institute is also available in the “Focus” section on the AWI website.
ScienceDaily: Scientists are taking the public with them to study the world’s coral reefs, thanks to 360 degree panoramas from Google’s underwater street-view format. Results from this pioneering project — which will allow ecologists to harness people power to discover how coral reefs are responding to climate change — will be presented at INTECOL, the world’s largest international ecology meeting, in London this week.
Guardian: Among the many strange mantras repeated by climate change deniers is the claim that even in an overheated, climate-altered planet, animals and plants will still survive by adapting to global warming. Corals, trees, birds, mammals and butterflies are already changing to the routine reality of global warming, it is argued.
Certainly, countless species have adapted to past climate fluctuations. However, their rate of change turns out to be painfully slow, according to a study by Professor John Wiens of the University of Arizona. Using data from 540 living species, including amphibians, reptiles, birds and mammals, Wiens and colleagues compared their rates of evolution with the rates of climate change projected for the end of this century. The results, published online in the journal Ecology Letters, show that most land animals will not be able to evolve quickly enough to adapt to the dramatically warmer climate expected by 2100. Many species face extinction, as a result.
USC: Climate change may be weeding out the bacteria that form the base of the ocean’s food chain, selecting certain strains for survival, according to a new USC study.
In climate change, as in everything, there are winners and losers. As atmospheric carbon dioxide levels and temperature rise globally, scientists increasingly want to know which organisms will thrive and which will perish in the environment of tomorrow. The answer to this question for nitrogen-fixing cyanobacteria (bacteria that obtain energy through photosynthesis, or “blue-green algae”) turns out to have implications for every living thing in the ocean. Nitrogen-fixing occurs when certain special organisms like cyanobacteria convert inert — and therefore unusable — nitrogen gas from the air into a reactive form that the majority of other living beings need to survive. Without nitrogen fixers, life in the ocean could not survive for long.
“Our findings show that CO2 has the potential to control the biodiversity of these keystone organisms in ocean biology, and our fossil fuel emissions are probably responsible for changing the types of nitrogen fixers that are growing in the ocean,” said David Hutchins, professor of marine environmental biology at the USC Dornsife College of Letters, Arts and Sciences and lead author of an article about this research that appeared in Nature Geoscience on June 30.
ScienceDaily: Greenhouse Gas Likely Altering Ocean Foodchain: Atmospheric CO2 Has Big Consequences for Tiny Bacteria
Taxon-specific response of marine nitrogen fixers to elevated carbon dioxide concentrations
David A. Hutchins, Fei-Xue Fu, Eric A. Webb, Nathan Walworth & Alessandro Tagliabue
Received 15 June 2012 Accepted 22 May 2013 Published online 30 June 2013
NC State University: In stunning color, new biodiversity research from North Carolina State University maps out priority areas worldwide that hold the key to protecting vulnerable species and focusing conservation efforts.
The research, published online in Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, pinpoints the highest global concentrations of mammals, amphibians and birds on a scale that’s 100 times finer than previous assessments. The findings can be used to make the most of available conservation resources, said Dr. Clinton Jenkins, lead author and research scholar at NC State University.
“We must know where individual species live, which ones are vulnerable, and where human actions threaten them,” Jenkins said. “We have better data than in the past—and better analytical methods. Now we have married them for conservation purposes.” Read more
University of Wasington: In spite of considerable human development, the southeastern United States region could provide some of the Western Hemisphere’s more heavily used thoroughfares for mammals, birds and amphibians on their way to cooler environments in a warming world, according to new research led by the University of Washington.
The region is among half a dozen areas that could experience heavier traffic compared with the average species-movement across the Western Hemisphere in response to a warming climate. The estimate in southeastern states, for example, is up to 2.5 times the average amount of movement across North and South America.
While previous studies mapped where animals need to move to find climates that suit them, this is the first broad-scale study to also consider how animals might travel when confronted with cities, large agricultural areas and other human related barriers, according to Joshua Lawler, UW associate professor of environmental and forestry sciences and lead author of a paper appearing June 19 online in Ecology Letters.
Guardian: World on course to run out of water, warns Ban Ki-moon
Speaking on the UN’s International Day of Biological Diversity, Ban said there was a “mutually reinforcing” relationship between biodiversity and water that should be harnessed.
“We live in an increasingly water insecure world where demand often outstrips supply and where water quality often fails to meet minimum standards. Under current trends, future demands for water will not be met,” Ban said.
Climate change has altered not only the overall magnitude of rainfall but also its seasonal distribution and interannual variability worldwide. Such changes in the rainfall regimes will be most keenly felt in arid and semiarid regions, where water availability and timing are key factors controlling biogeochemical cycles5, primary productivity, and the phenology of growth and reproduction8, 9, 10, while also regulating agricultural production.
Xue Feng, Amilcare Porporato & Ignacio Rodriguez-Iturbe
The Conservation of Arctic Flora and Fauna (CAFF), the biodiversity working group of the Arctic Council has released the “Arctic Biodiversity Assessment (ABA),” a report containing the best available science informed by traditional ecological knowledge on the status and trends of Arctic biodiversity and accompanying policy recommendations for biodiversity conservation.
“The Arctic Biodiversity Assessment is a tremendous achievement,” says Gustaf Lind, chair of the Senior Arctic Officials of the Arctic Council. “The recommendations will help shape Arctic conservation in the years to come and will prove itself an invaluable tool to the Arctic Council. The ABA articulates exactly how the environment is changing and signals to policymakers what needs to be done to secure the ecosystems and species that people rely on for life and livelihood. This is the information we need right now to help us achieve a sustainable future.”
Key finding 1: Arctic biodiversity is being degraded, but decisive action taken now can help sustain vast, relatively undisturbed ecosystems of tundra, mountains, fresh water and seas and the valuable services they provide
Key finding 2: Climate change is by far the most serious threat to Arctic biodiversity and exacerbates all other threats.
Key finding 3: Many Arctic migratory species are threatened by overharvest and habitat alteration outside the Arctic, especially birds along the East Asian flyway.
Key finding 4: Disturbance and habitat degradation can diminish Arctic biodiversity and the opportunities for Arctic residents and visitors to enjoy the benefits of ecosystem services.
Key finding 5: Pollution from both long-range transport and local sources threatens the health of Arctic species and ecosystems.
Key finding 6: There are currently few invasive alien species in the Arctic, but more are expected with climate change and increased human activity.
Key finding 7: Overharvest was historically the primary human impact on many Arctic species, but sound management has successfully addressed this problem in most, but not all, cases.
Key finding 8: Current knowledge of many Arctic species, ecosystems and their stressors is fragmentary, making detection and assessment of trends and their implications difficult for many aspects of Arctic biodiversity.
Key finding 9: The challenges facing Arctic biodiversity are interconnected, requiring comprehensive solutions and international cooperation.
UBC: Climate change has been impacting global fisheries for the past four decades by driving species towards cooler, deeper waters, according to University of British Columbia scientists.
In a Nature study published this week, UBC researchers used temperature preferences of fish and other marine species as a sort of “thermometer” to assess effects of climate change on the worlds oceans between 1970 and 2006. They found that global fisheries catches were increasingly dominated by warm-water species as a result of fish migrating towards the poles in response to rising ocean temperatures.
“One way for marine animals to respond to ocean warming is by moving to cooler regions,” says the study’s lead author William Cheung, an assistant professor at UBC’s Fisheries Centre. “As a result, places like New England on the northeast coast of the U.S. saw new species typically found in warmer waters, closer to the tropics. “Meanwhile in the tropics, climate change meant fewer marine species and reduced catches, with serious implications for food security.”
PEW: Scientists Detect Global Shift in Species
For the first time, scientists have shown that ocean warming has had a global impact on the mix of species caught by fishermen. Previous studies indicated that some species are shifting location in response to temperature increases, with fish gradually moving away from the equator into cooler waters. However, research published in May 2013 in Nature shows that species from warmer waters have also been replacing those traditionally caught in many fisheries worldwide at least since 1970.
The authors found that, except in the tropics, catch composition in most ecosystems slowly changed to include more warm-water species and fewer cool-water species. In the tropics, the catch followed a similar pattern from 1970 to 1980 and then stabilized, likely because there are no species with high enough temperature preferences to replace those that declined. Statistical models showed that the increase in warm-water species was significantly related to increasing ocean temperatures.
Tyndall UEA: Climate change is expected to have significant influences on terrestrial biodiversity at all system levels, including species-level reductions in range size and abundance, especially amongst endemic species. However, little is known about how mitigation of greenhouse gas emissions could reduce biodiversity impacts, particularly amongst common and widespread species. Our global analysis of future climatic range change of common and widespread species shows that without mitigation, 57±6% of plants and 34±7% of animals are likely to lose ≥50% of their present climatic range by the 2080s
Guardian: One-third of common land animals could see dramatic losses this century because of climate change, scientists predict.
More than half of plants could be hit the same way as habitats become unsuitable for numerous species. The collapse of ecosystems would have major economic impacts on agriculture, air quality, clean water access, and tourism. Global temperatures are set to rise 4C above preindustrial levels by 2100 if nothing is done to stem greenhouse gas emissions.
Quantifying the benefit of early climate change mitigation in avoiding biodiversity loss
Received 09 August 2012 Accepted 28 March 2013 Published online 12 May 2013
Sceptical Science: Living and working on the Earth’s surface it is very easy to get the wrong idea about global warming. Global surface air temperatures are indeed relevant to us surface-dwellers, but over 70% of the Earth’s surface is actually ocean, and around 93.4% of global warming has gone into heating the oceans (See Figure 1). Global warming is therefore the story of ocean warming.
NASA: Vegetation growth at Earth’s northern latitudes increasingly resembles lusher latitudes to the south, according to a NASA-funded study based on a 30-year record of land surface and newly improved satellite data sets. An international team of university and NASA scientists examined the relationship between changes in surface temperature and vegetation growth from 45 degrees north latitude to the Arctic Ocean. Results show temperature and vegetation growth at northern latitudes now resemble those found 4 degrees to 6 degrees of latitude farther south as recently as 1982.
“Higher northern latitudes are getting warmer, Arctic sea ice and the duration of snow cover are diminishing, the growing season is getting longer and plants are growing more,” said Ranga Myneni of Boston University’s Department of Earth and Environment. “In the north’s Arctic and boreal areas, the characteristics of the seasons are changing, leading to great disruptions for plants and related ecosystems.”
The study was published Sunday, March 10, in the journal Nature Climate Change.
CCRC; Aus: Shallow coral reefs may be even more susceptible to increasing acidity caused by heightened levels of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere and oceans than previously recognised.
In the same way that small increases in global temperature can lead to more extremely hot, record-breaking days, new research published today in Global Change Biology (doi: 10.1111/gcb.12154) has revealed that small increases in overall ocean acidity can lead to extreme localised changes in ocean pH around shallow coastal reefs and ecosystems. More
EEA: There are more than 10 000 alien species present in Europe, and the rate of new introductions has accelerated and is still increasing. At least 15 % of these alien species are known to have a negative ecological or economic impact. However, non-native species – for example, some food crops – can also have huge benefits.
The first report, The impacts of invasive alien species in Europe, details the effects and spread of some species. The second report, Invasive alien species indicators in Europe discusses the methodological approach in bringing this data together.
The most common reason species are introduced elsewhere is for horticulture, while others may be brought into new areas for other reasons including farming, hunting, and fishing, or as pets, the report notes. Transport is not always intentional – for example, zebra mussels have stowed away in the ballast water of ships to proliferate in European lakes. Increasing trade and tourism in recent decades may have led to increasing numbers of alien species. Climate change may also play a role in the spread of these species, the report says, making some areas more favourable to plants and animals originally from elsewhere.
Jacqueline McGlade, EEA Executive Director, said: “In many areas, ecosystems are weakened by pollution, climate change and fragmentation. Alien species invasions are a growing pressure on the natural world, which are extremely difficult to reverse.” More
Polar Bears International: A University of Alberta polar bear researcher along with eleven international co-authors, including Polar Bear International’s chief scientist and several of PBI’s advisors, are urging governments to start planning for rapid Arctic ecosystem change to deal with a climate change catastrophe for the animals. U of A professor Andrew Derocher, above, co-authored a policy perspective in the journal Conservation Letters urging governments with polar bear populations to accept that just one unexpected jump in Arctic warming trends could send some polar bear populations into a precipitous decline.
“It’s a fact that early sea ice break-up and late ice freeze-up and the overall reduction in ice pack are taking their toll,” said Derocher. “We want governments to be ready with conservation and management plans for polar bears when a worst case climate change scenario happens.”
NASA: An area of the Amazon rainforest twice the size of California continues to suffer from the effects of a megadrought that began in 2005, finds a new NASA-led study. These results, together with observed recurrences of droughts every few years and associated damage to the forests in southern and western Amazonia in the past decade, suggest these rainforests may be showing the first signs of potential large-scale degradation due to climate change. More
USGS: Plant and animal species are shifting their geographic ranges and the timing of their life events – such as flowering, laying eggs or migrating – at faster rates than researchers documented just a few years ago, according to a technical report on biodiversity and ecosystems used as scientific input for the 2013 Third National Climate Assessment.
The report, Impacts of Climate Change on Biodiversity, Ecosystems, and Ecosystem Services, synthesizes the scientific understanding of the way climate change is affecting ecosystems, ecosystem services and the diversity of species, as well as what strategies might be used by natural resource practitioners to decrease current and future risks. More than 60 federal, academic and other scientists, including the lead authors from the U.S. Geological Survey, the National Wildlife Federation and Arizona State University in Tempe, authored the assessment. More
Anthropogenic climate change is predicted to be a major cause of species extinctions in the next 100 years. But what will actually cause these extinctions? For example, will it be limited physiological tolerance to high temperatures, changing biotic interactions or other factors? Here, we systematically review the proximate causes of climate-change related extinctions and their empirical support. We find 136 case studies of climatic impacts that are potentially relevant to this topic.
Abigail E. Cahill, Matthew E. Aiello-Lammens, M. Caitlin Fisher-Reid, Xia Hua, Caitlin J. Karanewsky, Hae Yeong Ryu, Gena C. Sbeglia, Fabrizio Spagnolo, John B. Waldron, Omar Warsi and John J. Wiens
Guardian: Review finds loss of plants and animals due to global warming is already widespread, but the causes are poorly understood.
A major review into the impact of climate change on plants and animals has found that scientists have almost no idea how it drives various species to extinction. Though some organisms struggle to cope physiologically with rising temperatures – a simple and direct result of climate change – there was scarce evidence this was the main climate-related threat to many species whose numbers were already falling.
ScienceDaily: Extinction from Global Warming: Changing Interactions Between Species May Be More Dangerous Than High Temperatures Alone
Bristol University: Speaking at the Third International Symposium on the Ocean in a High-CO2 World this week in Monterey, California, Dr Daniela Schmidt, a geologist from the University of Bristol, warned that current rates of ocean acidification are unparalleled in Earth history. Dr Schmidt of Bristol’s School of Earth Sciences said: “Ocean acidification has happened before sometimes with large consequences for marine ecosystems. But within the last 300 million years, never has the rate of ocean acidification been comparable to the ongoing acidification. Continue
(AlertNet) – Climate change is a major threat to the world’s food supply and to biodiversity, and prompt action to deal with it is crucial, environmental experts said at the close of the World Conservation Congress. Achim Steiner, executive director of the UN Environment Programme (UNEP) warned that shifts in weather patterns suggest that problems for people and the environment will multiply if no action is taken on climate change.Continue
Oceana’s new report, Ocean-Based Food Security Threatened in a High CO2 World ranks nations to show which are most vulnerable to reductions in seafood production as a result of climate change and ocean acidification. While seafood is currently a primary source of protein for more than a billion of the poorest people in the world, carbon dioxide emissions are causing the oceans to warm and become more acidic, threatening fisheries and the people who depend on them. Continue
Potsdam Institute for Climate Impact Research: Coral reefs face severe challenges even if global warming is restricted to the 2 degrees Celsius commonly perceived as safe for many natural and man-made systems. Warmer sea surface temperatures are likely to trigger more frequent and more intense mass coral bleaching events. Only under a scenario with strong action on mitigating greenhouse-gas emissions and the assumption that corals can adapt at extremely rapid rates, could two thirds of them be safe, shows a study now published in Nature Climate Change. Otherwise all coral reefs are expected to be subject to severe degradation.
Biology Letters: Recent studies predict that the Arctic Ocean will have ice-free summers within the next 30 years. This poses a significant challenge for the marine organisms associated with the Arctic sea ice, such as marine mammals and, not least, the ice-associated crustaceans generally considered to spend their entire life on the underside of the Arctic sea ice.
ARC Centre of Excellence for Coral Reef Studies: Life in the world’s oceans faces far greater change and risk of large-scale extinctions than at any previous time in human history, a team of the world’s leading marine scientists has warned. The researchers from Australia, the US, Canada, Germany, Panama, Norway and the UK have compared events which drove massive extinctions of sea life in the past with what is observed to be taking place in the seas and oceans globally today.
Three of the five largest extinctions of the past 500 million years were associated with global warming and acidification of the oceans – trends which also apply today, the scientists say in a new article in the journal Trends in Ecology and Evolution.
Other extinctions were driven by loss of oxygen from seawaters, pollution, habitat loss and pressure from human hunting and fishing – or a combination of these factors. “Currently, the Earth is again in a period of increased extinctions and extinction risks, this time mainly caused by human factors,” the scientists stated. While the data is harder to collect at sea than on land, the evidence points strongly to similar pressures now being felt by sea life as for land animals and plants. Continue
The 2012 Marine Climate Change in Australia Report Card demonstrates that climate change is having significant impacts on Australia’s marine ecosystems.
Key findings show:
warming sea temperatures are influencing the distribution of marine plants and animals, with species currently found in tropical and temperate waters likely to move south
new research suggests winds over the Southern Ocean and current dynamics are strongly influencing foraging of seabirds that breed in south-east Australia and feed close to the Antarctic each summer
some tropical fish species have a greater ability to acclimatise to rising water temperatures than previously thought
the Australian science community is widely engaged in research, monitoring and observing programs to increase our understanding of climate change impacts and inform management
adaptation planning is happening now, from seasonal forecast for fisheries and aquaculture, to climate-proofing of breeding sites for turtles and seabirds.
Guardian: Oceans’ rising acid levels have emerged as one of the biggest threats to coral reefs, acting as the “osteoporosis of the sea” and threatening everything from food security to tourism to livelihoods, the head of a US scientific agency said Monday. The speed by which the oceans’ acid levels has risen caught scientists off-guard, with the problem now considered to be climate change’s “equally evil twin,” National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) chief Jane Lubchenco told The Associated Press. Continue
A shifting Arctic
Standford: While the discovery marks the first direct observation of an under-ice bloom, the conditions that allow for it in the Chukchi Sea exist over a large area of the Arctic. “We suspect that this is a lot more widespread than we realize,” said Arrigo. The appearance of under-ice blooms may presage wholesale shifts in the ecosystem of the Arctic. Colder-water phytoplankton production, as with under-ice algae, may cause organic matter to drop to the ocean floor sooner. The effect would benefit bottom-feeding species, to the detriment of species that feed in the water column. And, as algal blooms are able to occur earlier in the year, animals that depend on timing their behavior to “pulses” in algal productivity may be left out in the cold.
One piece of seemingly good news is an increase in the Arctic’s ability to sequester carbon. As the Arctic Ocean’s productivity increases, so should its carbon capture rate. But, Arrigo says, the effect is unlikely to make much difference. “Even if the amount of CO2 going into the Arctic Ocean doubled, it’s a blip on a global scale,” he said. Continue
Published Online June 7 2012
Science DOI: 10.1126/science.1215065
Scientists uncover evidence of impending tipping point for Earth
UC Berkeley: A prestigious group of scientists from around the world is warning that population growth, widespread destruction of natural ecosystems, and climate change may be driving Earth toward an irreversible change in the biosphere, a planet-wide tipping point that would have destructive consequences absent adequate preparation and mitigation. Continue
NY Times: The earth could be nearing a point at which sweeping environmental changes, possibly including mass extinctions, would undermine human welfare, 22 prominent biologists and ecologists warned on Wednesday. Acknowledging in a new paper that both the likelihood and timing of such a planetary “state shift” were uncertain, the scientists nonetheless described warning signs that it could arrive within a few human generations, if not sooner. Continue
Approaching a state shift in Earth’s biosphere
Published online 06 June 2012
RTCC: Overfishing, warming waters, ocean acidification and pollution are all terms we are becoming more aware of as it slowly dawns on us that our oceans may not be the mysterious and resilient habitats we have often considered them. As recently as 1998 the oceans heated so dramatically that a quarter of the world’s corals died – including between 70-90% of those in the Indian Ocean. If the same event had been witnessed on land to our forests – considered the land-based counterpart of the coral reefs – urgent information and action would be demanded to find out what had happened. More
Yale360: U.S. scientists this week unveiled a new online resource that maps the distribution of species worldwide and will ultimately allow users to update or add species data. The so-called “Map of Life” project — which draws on millions of known locations of various species, expert range maps, World Wildlife Fund data, and the databases of individual scientists — allows users to view distribution records for any terrestrial vertebrate species or fish worldwide, and generate a listing of all species within a 50- to 1,000-kilometer range.
Integrating biodiversity distribution knowledge: toward a global map of life
Trends in Ecology and Evolution, http://dx.doi.org/10.1016/j.tree.2011.09.007,
(IPS) – Without major reductions in the use of fossil fuels, sunlight is to kill an unknown number of ocean phytoplankton, the planet’s most important organism, a new study reports this week. Not only are phytoplankton, also known as marine algae, a vital component in the ocean’s food chain, they generate at least half of the oxygen we breathe. In the not so distant future, sunlight, the very source of life for phytoplankton, will likely begin to kill them because of the ocean’s increasing acidity, researchers from China and Germany have learned. Continue
Rising CO2 and increased light exposure synergistically reduce marine primary productivity
Kunshan Gao, Juntian Xu, Guang Gao, Yahe Li, David A. Hutchins, Bangqin Huang, Lei Wang, Ying Zheng, Peng Jin, Xiaoni Cai, Donat-Peter Häder,
Wei Li, Kai Xu, Nana Liu & Ulf Riebesell
Received 19 December 2011 Accepted 29 March 2012 Published online 06 May 2012
(Reuters) – Saving biodiversity — the vast and essential variety of the natural world — will be expensive, at an estimated $300 billion a year for the next eight years. But losing it would cost even more, in terms of disease, hunger, poverty and diminished resilience to climate change, according to the new chief of the U.N. Convention on Biological Diversity. More
Agricultural expansion and climate variability have become important agents of disturbance in the Amazon basin
Eric A. Davidson, Alessandro C. de Araújo, Paulo Artaxo, Jennifer K. Balch, I. Foster Brown, Mercedes M. C. Bustamante, Michael T. Coe, Ruth S. DeFries, Michael Keller, Marcos Longo, J. William Munger, Wilfrid Schroeder, Britaldo S. Soares-Filho, Carlos M. Souza & Steven C. Wofsy
Published online 18 January 2012
Agricultural expansion and climate variability have become important agents of disturbance in the Amazon basin. Recent studies have demonstrated considerable resilience of Amazonian forests to moderate annual drought, but they also show that interactions between deforestation, fire and drought potentially lead to losses of carbon storage and changes in regional precipitation patterns and river discharge. Although the basin-wide impacts of land use and drought may not yet surpass the magnitude of natural variability of hydrologic and biogeochemical cycles, there are some signs of a transition to a disturbance-dominated regime. These signs include changing energy and water cycles in the southern and eastern portions of the Amazon basin. Continue
Scientific American: Rainforest in Transition: Is the Amazon Transforming before Our Eyes?