Impacts of climate change on biodiversity

BIODIVERSITY IS defined as variability among living organisms from all sources including terrestrial, marine, mountain, desert, tropic, and other aquatic ecosystems. In todays world biodiversity is up against severe challenges that are gravely frightening for its conservation. The foremost mammoth challenge is the rapid climate change due to human intervention which is predominant after industrial revolution in 1940. The global climate is changing the socio-economic and geopolitical landscape of the world at large by influencing on almost its every aspect including biodiversity which is consequently unbalancing the natural equilibrium of ecosystems.

Climate change poses principal threats to biodiversity on planet earth. According to Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) report released in year 2007 climate change is expected to alter the structure and functioning of most of ecosystems, reduce biodiversity, and therefore compromise the biodiversity services required by all life on earth. The World Meteorological Organization (WMO, 2011) stated, “the first decade (2001-2010) is the warmest decade recorded over the globe and 2010 is ranked as the warmest year (+0.53°C) followed by 2005(+0.52°C) and 1998 (0.52°C). Sixteen warmest years of the globe occurred during the last two decades.

The rising levels of greenhouse gases (GHG) emissions are already changing the climate flaring the other challenges like biodiversity depletion, water security, food security etc. During the 20th century global mean sea level has risen by 10-20cm and the overall volume of glaciers is decreasing continuously. In last three decades, arctic ice thickness in later summers has decreased by 40%. On average, 100-150 species are disappearing everyday due climate change impacts. The migration patterns of birds, fishes, and other species also marks the change of habitat due to climate change that subsequently effects on the animals at top of food chain.

Experts suggest that in coming decades the added heat stress and dry soils as a result of climate change may reduce yields by as much as 1/3rd where crops are already near their maximum heat tolerance level.

Pakistan is an extremely vulnerable country in climate change perspective and its implications are already evident in form of unexpected rains, floods, drought, water scarcity etc. Glaciers and surfaces are the most delicate precursors of climate change that immediately respond to it in terms mass balance and contribution of melt water to the sea level rise. The global retreat of glaciers is certainly conspicuous. A case study in Shyok area of Pakistan shows that climate change impacts due to anthropogenic activities in the area are causing comparatively higher melting and thus greater risks of glacial mass movement is challenging.

Pakistan has followed the identical warming trend as the global average during the past 100 years rather northern mountains housing the Himalayan-Karakoram- Hindukush glaciers have retained more heat that the low elevation plains according to the study of Pakistan Meteorological Department (PMD). The alarming revelation of the study was the signs of black carbon which were recorded on bottom terminus of the valley glaciers thus accelerating the melting process. The source of that carbon is said to be wood burning. Moreover, supra and sub glacial lakes have been showing the increased potential of outburst due to accretion of glacier melt water and rainfall.

The conservation of biodiversity ranges from protecting organism of specific species to protecting ecosystem at large. The national and international organizations focusing on climate change and conservation of biodiversity must play proactive role in mobilizing resources to account for multifaceted threats asserted by climate change to the biodiversity so to make planet earth a safer place for future generations and species to live in and take equitable advantages from genetic resources. This subject needs utmost attention from government to conserve, sustain, and utilize biodiversity by developing and implementing climate resilient strategies and action plans to combat with the challenges faced due to climate change.

The author is associated with Technology Time as Editorial Assistant. He can be reached at

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