In the wake of the agreement between the two largest greenhouse gas emitters this week, North America & China have declared they will work to cap the CO2 both countries produce and work to slow man-made climate change. Of course this is great news, but for many species the damage may have already been done. Conservationists have already been working hard to protect the world’s biodiversity from the greatest challenge. Here we take a look at how some scientist are hoping they can protect Earth species, and the consequences if they fail.
As the Earth temperature rises thousands of species of plants and animals have been put at risk. With an issue as large as the planet’s temperature, there is little surprise many rare unsure how best to act. But there are some conservationists out there and coming up with possible solutions. One such solution being assisted migration.
Assisted migration has been called a radical new concept to downright dangerous and misguided, and whilst it has polarised many, it may still be one of the best methods to protect biodiversity. The idea is that as a species habitat is degraded by rising temperatures it is possible to simple move the plants or animals to more suitable habitat. As the Earth temperature rises this makes many habitats useless to species that already call them home, but this also warms up new areas previously unused by the species. Assisted migrations is the idea that by collect the individuals and delivering them to the new warmed up habitat, then the specie may colonise and survive the worst of climate change. A famous example of this involves the marbles white butterflies. The butterflies were moved in the year 2000 in the back of car, driven North and released into a new area. But it will take many years to see if this experiment was a success or not.
The reason so many are not in favour of assisted migration is due to the idea of invasive species damaging habitats for native species. The effects of invasive species re never fully understood prior to their arrival in the new habitat but the risk to natives can be profound. It is thought by some that the risks posed by the introduction of new species may be even worse than to do nothing and simply let climate cause extinctions. More research is always needed and if the risks of moving species can be checked then maybe we will see more assisted migrations in years to come.
The replacement of species is an extreme measure to climate change and is there to protect ecosystems instead of individual species. Whilst few examples of this exist today it is something conservationists should be aware of and studying in case of the worst case scenario. The idea is that a species many fill a certain niche in its ecosystem, say a detrivore, if that species suffers because of climate and goes extinct then the niche is now void. Because of this the ecosystem will be affected as a whole. But if another detrivore from a different area can be brought in to fill the same niche, then it is possible the ecosystem will continue to function normally. This can be extended to any ecological; niche in an ecosystem. New predators could be introduced, or plants, or herds of herbivores to maintain grasslands, but conservationists are rightfully cautious. Much as with assisted migration the issue of bringing new species into an area can bring many unforseen issues. But if a niche has been left empty due to an extinction then the ecosystem could suffer dramatically anyway. If ecological replacement is the only chance to restore the ecosystem, then should the risk be taken?
The idea of losing biodiversity due to climate change evokes many powerful emotions in people. It is a sad world when we lose species for eternity, never to be seen again. But this isn’t the first time species have gone extinct and it isn’t the last. So some have proposed we simply do nothing to stop the extinction event. This is so far Earths 6th great extinction event. The world has suffered huge losses, everyone is aware of the asteroid and the dinosaurs, and still life exists. Life seems not to be so fragile, but instead persistent and hard to eradicate. In time biodiversity will increase again. But humans may not be around to see it. So is doing nothing really such a bad idea?
Well here I must make my feelings clear. Yes extinction events are a part of life, they have happened before and will happen again. But this one is the only one caused by a single species, us. So, whilst life will continue regardless of what we do. It is up to conservationists and governments tot decide the type of future we want to leave behind, nd which species will exist there. How we will save species, and if we will even try. I hope that we will do everything in our power to save the species that have been harmed by human activities, and with luck may we save at least some of our vulnerable species.