It’s been a sad week (what with forced abortions, a recent resurgence of Ebola, and gamer death threats) but you know who else is having a helluva sad week and will probably continue to do so for the next 40 years? Tropical fish. New research suggests that these dare-we-say dazzling coral reef dwellers (who are like Jack John-son level sensitive) are not equipped to deal with the warming waters near the equator.
Researchers from the University of British Columbia examined how tropical fish will migrate as our climate shifts. Their study has found that by 2050, many of the 802 studied species face local extinction as they move towards Arctic and Antarctic waters to cool off from their preferred habitat nearest the equator.
While the specific relocation distance are dependent on whether our climate models err on the side of too high or low temperature increase, such a mass exodus of fish will render the species invasive towards the poles. Which isn't pretty. Ya know, because of the whole disruption of an extremely fragile ecosystem, food chain and habitat thing.
Sadly, Nemo and Co. are not the first and will surely not be the last to be displaced via climate change. (Not to mention the whole national security risk involved in global warming—also in the ocean news this week).
According to the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), coral systems and species like mollusks face extinction as our oceans absorb more carbon dioxide and acidify, destroying their shells.
But not all effects are as pronounced. Koalas, earth’s resident cuddle monsters—and apparently, picky eaters—survive almost entirely on eucalyptus. They don’t even drink water. As the quality and consistency of the plant will decrease as the climate warms, koalas will be left undernourished and likely to migrate and endure new predators.
(Another odd koala fact: nearly half of all these arboreal herbivorous marsupials living Australia are infected with a strain of Chlamydia (which causes everything from blindness and infertility, to, respiratory and urinary infections), in addition to an HIV-like virus that's circulating. [Insert mildly offensive sex-ed joke here.] They often pass the diseases onto offspring and suffer even further population risk.)
Just in the U.S. alone, diversity of life forms has already taken a serious hit. Notably, the bog turtle (adorably only 4 inches long and also sensitive as hell) has been considered critically endangered since 2011, affected in no small part by drought and flooding made more frequent by climate change. Then there's the big bad grizzly bear, which is currently doing alright for itself in terms of an becoming an endangered species, but rapidly changing weather patterns are likely to force decreased hibernation time and food options. According to National Geographic, this may cause them to go hunting where people live and maybe for people (this is what I meant about national security).
And of course we have already seen extinction. For example, the golden toad, which lived in Central America, became extinct mostly due to drought and dwindling habitat. Sadly we know all too well about the pending demise of the polar bear, so I’m not even going to go there.
So what's the good news? Going back to the aquatic fate of the tropical fish, Miranda Jones, a lead researcher speculated a strange silver lining in the study’s press release: “As fish move to cooler waters, this generates new opportunities for fisheries in the Arctic.”
At least there’s a human advantage . . . right?