Climate change has been presenting new challenges for the survival of humans and several wildlife species. Extreme weather events such as drought, floods, storms, heat waves, wildfires have been becoming more frequent; the rate of melting of snow at the mountains and the poles, warming of ocean water has been rapidly increasing. Such shifts in climate patterns have been destroying their habitats, changing their migratory patterns and causing a sharp decline in their ability to reproduce. Some of the worst impacted animals by climate change are as follow:
Climate change has been warming the ocean water and increasing the rate of melt of sea ice in the Arctic and Antarctic seas. These regions are feeding grounds for many large whales and with changing ecology, whale population, especially of Narwhal, beluga and bowhead which live in polar waters for most of the year are under threat. With changes in optimum water temperature, it will have a drastic impact on their migration patterns, which will affect their feeding, mating and even the birth of their calves.
The Arctic region has been warming at a faster rate than the rest of the world due to climate change and global warming. This has put the lives of polar bears at risk. Melting ice and snow have made their favourite food, the ringed seals, inaccessible. As a result, polar bears expend more energy walking or swimming for their food and in its unavailability, most of them have been starving to death.
Sea Turtles are among the oldest living species on earth. They have been around for over 200 million years now. However, the rising water temperature in oceans has been skewing their sex ratio by favouring more of the female population. As climate change and global warming will continue raising the water temperature, the male population will decline drastically. This will have an impact on their reproduction capability.
Arctic sea ice has been declining at a faster rate. Ringed Seals depend on thick sea ice and snow to sustain their life. In the absence of thick ice and snow which they use for making their dens, lairs, building breathing holes and accessing seawater to hunt polar fish, their mortality rate has been increasing significantly.
Climate change does not have a direct impact on snow leopards. However, with rising temperature, the glaciers and snow have been retreating, permafrost has been thawing, this has been drastically transforming their habitat. The hunting and encroachment of their habitats by humans have been threatening their lives and now just 7000 snow leopards remain in existence. It is estimated that global warming can destroy two-thirds of their habitat in the next five decades.
Warming seawater has been damaging the coral reefs around the world. As a response to warm water, coral polyps have been expelling algae which live in an endosymbiotic relationship with corals. The phenomenon is known as coral bleaching as in the absence of colourful algae, the corals appear white. Without the algae, the corals become vulnerable to many diseases which impacts their growth and reproduction.
The marine life in Antarctica, too, has been bearing the brunt of climate change. Of the four species of penguins, the population of Adélie penguins have been on a sharp decline. As Adélie penguins thrive on sea ice cover, the loss of the cover caused by the warming ocean has impacted them negatively.