The Effects of Climate Change on Biodiversity

 The Effects of Climate Change on Biodiversity

Fighting climate change is not a matter of politics, but of survival from a food and health point of view. Continuing to damage ecosystems may be irreversible for our existence.

By Luis Miguel da Costa | AJN 

The effects of climate change on the planet, such as rising average temperatures, rising sea levels and melting polar ice caps, are well known. And it is also common knowledge how these changes can affect us humans and other species of animals.

But do we have any idea of the impact on biodiversity in general?

We can start this conversation by considering the physiology of the flora. In their book “Plant Physiology”, Taiz & Zeiger have an entire section dedicated to the impact of climate change on plants. There they report that, although there are plants resistant to the increasing temperatures and plant species that would benefit from an increase in the average concentration of CO2 in the atmosphere, most plants would not be able to survive these changes and would possibly become extinct at some point. 

You may ask yourself how this is any of my business. Well, it is all of your business!

Many of these are commercial species and plants that we use as a food source: thus, to contribute to climate change means to invest in reducing food sources for the human species in the long term.

Moreover, the decrease in the number of plants on Earth dramatically affects the quality of the air we breathe – and thus of our life. In fact, the loss of flora means that fewer and fewer plants will be able to perform the chlorophyll photosynthesis, the process which replaces Co2 with oxygen in the atmosphere. This translates like this: the more green we lose, the less oxygen we have. 

And now, public health. One of the most accepted hypotheses by the scientific community is that the virus currently affecting us, SARS-CoV-2, was transmitted to humans indirectly, probably as a zoonosis originating from a bat species. The first report of the disease was in Wuhan, China: there, they identified a bat species that probably would have been the vector for the beginning of the pandemic. However, a research group from the zoology department in Cambridge, when studying the origin of the virus, reported that the species was not native to that region. But what does this have to do with climate change? 

The scientists involved in this research found evidence that this species of bat was native to another region of China and that its migration to Wuhan was due to climate change. In fact, the investigated species had preferences for certain temperatures and, due to changes in its natural habitat, over time it migrated and settled in Wuhan because it was a more favorable environment.

The estimated increase in the local number of bat species due to changes in their geographic areas caused by climate change between the period 1901-1930 and 1990-2019. The enlarged area represents the probable spatial origin of the bat-borne ancestors of SARS-CoV-1 and 2; Source: Beyer et al., 2021

Fighting climate change is not a political issue, but one of long-term survival of our species from at least two points of view: that of food, since the plant species we consume depend on the current climate cycle to continue generating products; that of  public health, since affecting ecosystems can cause the migration of animals which are carriers of pathogenic microorganisms to us humans.

We have to be responsible and respectful of our planet, of its ecosystems, and we have to preserve them so that the natural balance is maintained.

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