Climate change, wildlife and tourism

 

Climate change is a very serious and growing concern, and although there are disputes as tote exact effects different regions, there seems little doubt that the climate is changing at an alarming rate, and that much of this is due to human activities.. Possible effects in coming decades include:

  • Extensive damage to marine ecosystem such as coral reefs, which are already under serious stress
  • Terrestrial habitat changes – e.g. changes in rainfall and temperature patterns favouring some species over others, mountain-top fauna and flora being invaded by species from lower altitudes but having nowhere to go themselves, mists no longer settling frequently on wet mountain forests, which will gradually dry out and change to other habitat types, more frequent (and in some cases permanent)  flooding of low-lying areas 
  • Extreme events such as heatwaves becoming more common – even if of short duration this can be fatal to many  species, which could become locally extinct
  • De-coupling of mutualism: e.g. fruiting periods and survival or seasonal movements of seed-dispersing frugivores, flowering patterns and survival or seasonal movements of pollinators
  • Changes in an animal’s resources (e.g. will Eucalyptus leaves become less digestible for koalas?)
  • Movements of diseases and parasites (will malaria and other tropical diseases become more widespread in popular tourism destinations?) Maybe movements of other species also (e.g. crocodiles moving south?) 
  • Rising sea levels and greater frequency of cyclones, fires and other extreme events could deter tourism in some regions

 

In October 2020 WTA chair Ronda Green presented a Zoom talk and discussion “What will happen to the wildlife?” as part of the 24 Hours of Reality broadcasts

Abstract.

 
Climate change is already affecting some species. The first Australian mammal to succumb seems to be the  Bramble Cay Melomys, which became extinct when seawater flooded its habitat too long for a recovery. Through the world many other species in low-lying areas are likely to be threatened by rising sea levels and a tendency for more frequent and intense cyclones. Most Australian ecosystems comprise species that are adapted to fire but the fires of 2019 were devastating to a degree never seen before, burning with much higher intensity and far more widespread than ever before, and even affecting rainforests that normally never burn, and whose constituent fauna and flora have never had to evolve adaptations. There have been similar situations in Brazil, California and elsewhere. Smaller, less mobile species are especially in trouble both in their ability to escape fires and opportunities to find resources after a fire. This is both a welfare problem and – especially for species with restricted distributions – a conservation one. Some species are benefitting from global warming and expanding into higher latitudes and higher altitudes, but they are then intensifying  competition of or predation of those species already occupying such regions. And while species from the lowlands can move gradually upwards, those that only survive on mountain tops, unless perhaps they happen to be strong flying birds, have nowhere to go. Other potential problems include de-coupling of mutualisms where fruiting or flowering periods may get out of phase with activities of seed dispersers and pollinators, and the effects of changing conditions on plant composition, making them less palatable or nutritious for herbivores (this has for instance been predicted for eucalypts and koalas. Returning to the issue of effects on sea waters, warming and acidification around coral reefs are already causing major problems, and such reefs are essential breeding or feeding grounds for much of our marine biodiversity both great and small. Ten minute introductory talk, then open discussion on problems and what needs to be done.
 

For evidence of climate change see

1 Links to other parts of this website

 

2 External links:

 

Effect of climate change on wildlife (external links)::

 

Advice to those already affected or likely to be affected by flooding (external link):