Oceana, an international ocean conservation group, yesterday released a new report that identifies vital habitats in need of protection, if key endangered species are to have a chance to survive climate change. According to the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), 20 to 30 percent of the world's species will be at increased risk of extinction if global temperature increases exceed 1.5 to 2.5° C (3 to 5° F) above pre-industrial levels. The climate threats to species include increased disease, diminished reproduction, habitat loss, and declining food supply.
“For species that are already struggling on the brink of extinction, global climate change threatens to push them over the edge,” said Huta. “We certainly need to reduce global warming pollution, but we also need to act now to prioritize and protect some of the most important ecosystems for imperiled wildlife. Endangered species don't have the luxury of waiting for political leaders to act to slow the pace of climate change.”
List of top 10 ecosystems to save for endangered species featured in the report:
1. Arctic sea ice, home to the polar bear, Pacific walrus and at least six species of seal
2. Shallow water coral reefs, home to the critically endangered elkhorn and staghorn corals
3. The Hawaiian Islands, home to more than a dozen imperiled birds, and 319 threatened and endangered plants
4. Southwest deserts, home to numerous imperiled plants, fish and mammals
5. The San Francisco Bay-Delta, home to the imperiled Pacific salmon, Swainson’s hawk, tiger salamander and Delta smelt
6. California Sierra Mountains, home to 30 native amphibian species, including the Yellow-legged frog
7. The Snake River Basin, home to four imperiled runs of salmon and steelhead
8. Greater Yellowstone Ecosystem, home to the imperiled Whitebark pine, an important food source for the threatened Grizzly bear and other animals
9. The Gulf Coast’s flatlands and wetlands, home to the Piping and Snowy plovers, Mississippi sandhill crane, and numerous species of sea turtles
10. The Greater Everglades, home to 67 threatened and endangered species, including the manatee and the red cockcaded woodpecker
“Climate change is no longer a distant threat on the horizon,” said Leda Huta, executive director of the Endangered Species Coalition. “It has arrived and is threatening ecosystems that we all depend upon, and our endangered species are particularly vulnerable.”
Seven additional ecosystems were nominated but did not make the Top 10. They nonetheless contain important habitat for imperiled species. These ecosystems include Glacier National Park, the Jemez Mountains, Sagebrush Steppe, U.S. West Coast, the Maine Woods, the Grasslands of the Great Plains and the Southern Rocky Mountains.
Scientists ranked Arctic sea ice and shallow water corals as two of the highest priority ecosystems threatened by climate change in an Endangered Species Coalition report demonstrating the urgency of saving habitat for endangered species. The report, entitled It’s Getting Hot Out There: Top 10 Places to Save for Endangered Species in a Warming World was released January 5th, and examines how the changing climate is increasing extinction risk for imperiled fish, plants and wildlife.
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Amy Lou Jenkins is the author of Every Natural Fact: Five Seasons of Open-Air Parenting.