The Polar Bear is Not Alone

May 12, 2021

The polar bear, the poster child for climate change, has company. As ice melts, sea levels rise, land is parched, and weather grows extreme, a variety of plant and animal species are adapting to new threats and humans are reflecting upon their role in what some have called a new geological era: the Anthropocene.

  1. Climate change is profoundly affecting the environment of the Arctic. Warmer temperatures have brought the red fox north, where it now competes with the Arctic fox for prey and in some cases kills and consumes the Arctic foxes themselves.
  2. The bar-tailed godwit flies more than 11,000 kilometers in its annual 9-day migration from Alaska to New Zealand. Climate change increasingly threatens breeding grounds and stopover sites for many migratory birds.
  3. Africa’s 10,000 cheetahs, reduced from 100,000 animals a century ago, face threats today that include loss of habitat, conflict with humans and, increasingly, rising temps that appear to impair their reproductive ability.
  4. Today, tens of thousands of female walrus occupy coastal areas due to the melting of once-plentiful sea ice in a changing climate. Stampedes by older walruses on these so-called “haul-outs” have been known to crush younger animals.
  5. The marbled four-eyed frog is one of several amphibian species WCS has been following in the Peruvian Andes as part of an investigation into the impact of climate change on frog and toad populations.
  6. The polar bear has in many ways become the iconic species to represent the Earth’s changing climate. Threatened by the melting of its sea ice habitat, polar bears are struggling to survive in a rapidly changing Arctic.
  7. Drought conditions in the United States’ southwest region have threatened agricultural livelihoods and highlighted the parallel challenge of water scarcity in the face of a warming climate.
  8. Rising sea level resulting from the melting of polar ice is already wreaking havoc on many island and coastal seascapes, including Alaska, Benin in West Africa, and Papua New Guinea, where communities have been forced to relocate and rebuild.
  9. Unsustainable logging and deforestation for conversion to agriculture have driven a rise in atmospheric carbon and related ecological problems that include loss of soil fertility and erosion and destruction of critical habitat for many species.
  10. Coral reefs across the globe have been devastated by bleaching due to rising ocean temperatures in recent decades. The good news: marine conservationists have identified coral species that have proven resilient to both current and projected impacts of climate change. These must be protected.

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