How Climate Change Affects Species (Edexcel International A Level Biology)

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Naomi H


Naomi H



How Climate Change Affects Species

  • Greenhouse gases absorb infrared radiation emitted by the earth, causing the atmosphere to warm
  • The higher the concentration of greenhouse gases in the atmosphere, the more infrared radiation is absorbed, and the warmer the atmosphere will become
  • Increased atmospheric warming has had, and will have, multiple impacts on climate patterns, e.g.
    • Weather events becoming more extreme e.g. hotter, longer, heatwaves, and more violent storms
    • Changes to ocean currents leading to altered local climates e.g. the Gulf stream that currently brings warm water to the west coast of the UK might change direction, causing parts of the UK's climate to cool
    • Warmer air can hold more moisture, leading to changes in patterns of rainfall; more, heavier rainfall in some places could lead to reduced rainfall in other locations
  • Evidence for some of these changes in climate patterns can already be seen in many parts of the world
    • Warming climates cause animals to move towards the poles or to higher altitudes
      • A concern is that these species may not be able to compete with, or may even out-compete, the species already present in these habitats, with either result leading to decreased biodiversity
      • Some species, such as plant species, may not be able to move or change their distribution fast enough to adapt to changing temperatures and may become extinct as a result
    • Water availability in some habitats is changing
      • Changes to rainfall patterns can be devastating to species that rely on seasonal rains for their survival e.g. some desert plants rely on rains that may come only once a year and climate change may mean that such seasonal events occur less frequently or stop altogether
      • Some species may no longer be able to survive in their habitat due to a lack of rainfall; such species may migrate to a new habitat or may become extinct
    • Seasonal cycles are changing e.g.
      • Plant species are producing flowers earlier in the year
      • Animals are producing young earlier in the year
      • Bird migratory patterns may lose their synchronisation with their habitats, leading to a change in migration patterns
        • E.g. earlier plant growth leads to alterations in invertebrate life cycles, meaning that when a bird species arrives for its summer migration their usual food source is not available
    • Polar ice and glaciers are retreating; it is thought that there may soon be no summer ice in the arctic if rates of warming there continue
      • The loss of glacier ice from mountain ranges may affect the water supplies of many people and surrounding wildlife
    • Sea levels have been rising faster in recent years, putting many more people and animals at risk of being flooded out of their homes
      • Sea levels are rising due to the expansion of warmer water and due to melting polar ice

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Naomi H

Author: Naomi H

Naomi graduated from the University of Oxford with a degree in Biological Sciences. She has 8 years of classroom experience teaching Key Stage 3 up to A-Level biology, and is currently a tutor and A-Level examiner. Naomi especially enjoys creating resources that enable students to build a solid understanding of subject content, while also connecting their knowledge with biology’s exciting, real-world applications.

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