Global warming, which is a phenomenon of the recent times occurring within the 20th century, results from rising of the average temperatures of the atmosphere and oceans of the world. The rise in temperature leads to warming of climatic systems, of the world, especially the Arctic and Antarctic regions (Polar Regions) leading to devastating effects on both terrestrial wildlife and aquatic life.
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The level of certainty, by scientists, “that global warming result from the increase in concentration of green house gases in the atmosphere, due to human activities, such as burning of fossil fuels, deforestation, and the continued use of harmful insecticides, is 90%” (Lubin, 2008)
Further projections, by intergovernmental panel on climate change, indicate that, in the 21st century, global surface temperature is probably rising by 1.1oc to 2.9oc due to further accumulation of green gases from the continued human activity.
High surface temperatures lead to “the melting of ice in Polar Regions such as the Arctic and Antarctic regions causing a rise in the ocean and sea levels, which affects the amount and pattern of precipitation and expansion of subtropical deserts” (O’Neel, 2008).
Further prospects indicate that, global warming would result into extreme climatic changes with heat waves, droughts, species extinction, changes in crop yields and heavy rainfall.
The expected strong warming on the Arctic regions of the world will lead to ice melting causing significant rise in the sea and ocean level even beyond the polar region. The rise in sea levels, resulting from the melting of ice in the Arctic region, destroys aquatic habitats, as well as the terrestrial habitats, when the rise displaces terrestrial wildlife along the coastal lines (O’Neel, 2008).
On the other hand, the adverse climatic changes due to global warming leading to droughts and expansion of deserts, affects the wildlife, both plants and animals, as food shortage and destruction of habitats sets and thus Arctic ice melting will have major effects beyond the polar region.
The growth and establishment of sustainable wildlife depends largely on the availability of a healthy habitat with elements of good temperature, fresh water, good source of food, and good places to raise the young ones. Global warming affects negatively on these constituents of a good habitat in that, it causes an increase in temperature ranges, destruction of food sources, and deflowers fresh water bodies meant for wildlife consumption.
Temperature rise in the Arctic region leads to increase in the level of ice melting thus destroying the hunting grounds for polar bears. The removal of hunting grounds puts polar bears on the risk of extinction due to lack of sustainable food supply. Moreover, warming of water bodies due to melting of ice eventually leads to reduction in population of animals surviving in cold environments such as the trout and salmon.
Bleaching of massive coral ecosystems destroys breeding grounds for many species of fish due to global warming and increase in ocean temperatures. The destruction of coral reefs destroys the substratum for the growth of phytoplankton, which serves as food for different species of fish.
The reduction in the food supply in the ecosystems adversely affects the population growth of the aquatic life; therefore, temperature increase not only affects the coral ecosystem, but also affects the aquatic populations even beyond the Polar Regions as the melted ice trickle down from the Polar Regions to the lowlands.
The expected large floods resulting from “ice melting in the Polar Regions, ruin aquatic habitats interfering with water quality and causes increased erosion levels amounting to ruining of both aquatic and terrestrial life, in the affected areas” (Hartmann, 1997, p. 28).
Furthermore, droughts resulting from climate changes accruing from global warming leads to destruction of plants as primary producers, thus affecting negatively on the animal life, which largely depend on plants for food and shelter. Droughts cause enlargement of deserts and diverse wildlife fresh water.
For migratory animals, climatic changes cause changes and alteration in food availability. For instance, migratory birds arrive in patterns to find insects, flowering plants, and seeds, which are food sources, but due to changes in climatic patterns, “the migratory birds may find food sources have bloomed or hatched too early” (Rosenzweig, & Hillel,1995, p.56).
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These changes in the pattern of food availability may cause changes in population of the birds, and this occurs majorly beyond the Polar Regions. Moreover, mild winter ensuing from global warming especially from the melting of ice causes food caches to spoil. Animals such as the Gay Jay species, which depend on food stores during winter, may extinct due to lack of food during the winter in Polar Regions and beyond.
Destruction of places for raising young ones is significantly resulting from global warming in that, both droughts and flooding demolishes breeding places for aquatic life and terrestrial life. For instance, Hartmann projects that, drought caused by global warming “could dry up to 90% of the U.S Westland eliminating essential breeding habitat for ducks, geese and other migratory species” (1997, p.24).
On the other hand, the annihilation of mangrove forest and changes in water salinity in the oceans and seas demolishes breeding places for many fish species, and thus no places left for fish to raise their young ones and feed them to maturity. On the event of ice melting, “animals such as the ringed seals, walruses and polar bears, which use ice as platforms, remain at risk due to destruction of their habitats” (Lubin, 2008).
Global warming affects negatively on the food security aspect, which in turn affects wildlife in both marine and terrestrial environment. Crop failure and reduction in crop yield causes many people to turn to marine practices such as fishing in order to supplement the low food supply. Increased fishing reduces the fish population, and if not controlled could lead to extinction of some fish species through over fishing.
Further concentration of high levels of carbon dioxide and increase in global temperatures will result in interference of the ecological systems such as the mangrove systems, tundra system and the coral reefs leading to extinction of species and changes in biodiversity in many ecosystems.
Melting of ice in Polar Regions threatens marine life including the polar bears as extinction of walruses deprives polar bears off their prey (Hartmann, 1997, p. 25). Cold water, ice, and ice edges are vital in supporting the blooming of phytoplankton and algae, thus supporting aquatic food web.
Adverse climatic changes affect the composition of both algae and phytoplankton as primary producers in the food wed thus affecting the entire food supply in the marine ecosystem. Disruption of the normal food source in the system threatens the life of the animals supported by the food wed with extinction out of starvation.
Change in temperature on the Arctic regions causes a push in vegetation zoning towards the north hence causing the displacement of terrestrial land by the melted ice.
This displacement threatens the terrestrial wildlife in which plants and animals remain ruined. Severe storms damage, both plants and animals, causing displacement of marine animals to other grounds, which could have unfavorable living conditions, such as high salinity levels, leading to their eventual death.
Another major risk in Polar Regions and beyond is the collapsing of polar bear dens due to melting of ice and heavy rainfall resulting from global warming. In the event of polar bear, dens collapse can cause death to both the mature polar bears and the young one and thus put their survival at risk.
Global warming causes many adverse climatic changes, which impact negatively on both marine and terrestrial wildlife not only on the Arctic regions but also beyond the Polar Regions.
As mentioned above, increase in temperature, at the Arctic cycle, causes the melting of ice and snow, hence raising the sea and ocean level in many parts of the globe beyond the Polar Regions. Increased sea and ocean levels pose threats and risks of extinction of wildlife in both the marine and terrestrial environments.
Storms, floods droughts and heavy rains destroy habitats depriving wildlife off their breeding and feeding places. Moreover, habitat destruction leaves wildlife with no shelter, fresh water and exposes the wildlife to extreme climatic changes unfit for survival.
Food insecurity resulting from global warming and low crop yield associates closely to extreme exploitation of marine life for food supplementation. Through extensive fishing, there is a reduction in population of many aquatic animals even beyond the Polar Regions; therefore, it is evident that Arctic ice thawing will have major consequences outside the polar region.
Hartmann, D. (1997). Our Changing Climate in Reports to the Nation, Our Changing Planet. University Corporation for Atmospheric Research, 4 (1), 24-25.
Lubin, D. (Producer). (2008, January 10). Global Warming and the Polar Regions: Signs Of Human Impact. Podcast. Retrieved from <https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=nLSDbNufRPQ>
O’Neel, S. (2008, January 10). Disappearing Glaciers and the Rising Sea. Podcast. Retrieved from <https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=x_iu2JipH04&feature=relmfu>
Rosenzweig, C., & Hillel, D., (1995). Potential Impacts of Climate Change on Agriculture and Food Supply: in Consequences: the Nature & Implications of Environmental Change. USA: Saginaw Valley State University Press.