Earth has a history of climate change
Changes in the sun, the Earth’s orbit, ocean currents and volcanic eruptions are natural effects on climate. Studies of tree rings, glacial layers, ocean sediment, pollen remains, sedimentary rocks, coral reefs and air trapped in bubbles in ice cores, reveal a climate record going back hundreds of thousands of years. Fossil records show that in the past 490 million years dramatic changes in climate have caused at least five mass extinctions. Some studies estimate that the current rate of extinction is 100 times faster than what would occur without human impact.
The climate is changing now
Indicators that the climate is changing include: rising mean temperatures; rising ocean temperatures; increased ocean acidity; sea level rise; decrease of ice in the Arctic and Antarctic; and retreat of almost all alpine glaciers. Recent studies show that the paths and speed of the northern jet stream (large rivers of wind high in the atmosphere) are shifting because of warmer temperatures in the Arctic—bringing colder winters
Today's climate change is from human causes
The dominant cause of present-day climate change is the increase in carbon dioxide, methane and other greenhouse gases emitted into the atmosphere by human activities.* Higher concentrations of greenhouse gases are the predominant cause of warming temperatures—geological history shows that as levels of greenhouse gases increased, the earth warmed. Climate change will likely be one of the main drivers of extinction in the 21st century because of the speed at which average temperatures are warming—faster than at any time in the last 15,000 years.
* 97% of active climate scientists agree that today's climate change is caused by human activities
Species are at risk of extinction
A global mean temperature rise of 2 to 3 °C will greatly increase the percentage of species at risk and amplify the dangerous impacts on biodiversity and ecosystems. If an ecosystem is already degraded from other causes not related to climate, such as pollution, a species is less resilient or likely to adapt. The animals shown here illustrate the wondrous diversity of life on Earth, and also highlight the many ways climate change puts all forms of life on the planet, including humans, at risk.
The Poster: "Animals at Risk from Climate Change"
By highlighting 25 animals selected for their vulnerability to climate change, the complex interaction of biological traits and environmental conditions that cause a species to be susceptible are made simple and understandable through illustrations, key graphics and brief explanatory text.
Comprehensive and rigorously annotated to reliable sources, this poster is a valuable, timely and relevant educational aid.
24" x 30", printed on FSC certified recycled paper.
The Koala is not a bear, but a marsupial. Like the kangaroo, it carries its young in a pouch. It rarely drinks water—Koala means "no water" in native Australian. Its water and food come from eucalyptus leaves, which are water rich but nutrient poor. To conserve energy, the Koala naps up to 20 hours a day and stays up in its home trees most of the time.
Ringed seals are the smallest of all seals and live primarily in the Arctic Ocean. They are able to dive as deep as 300 feet and stay under for up to 45 minutes. They blow bubbles before surfacing to check for Polar Bears, their main predator. The seals use their sharp claws to make breathing holes in the thick ice.
The Shenandoah Salamander has no lungs—it "breathes" through its skin. A tail or toes lost to a predator will re-grow in a few weeks.
Although it looks white, Polar Bear fur is actually transparent and hollow and traps heat from the sun. The skin under their fur is black and absorbs the sun's heat. They also have a thick layer of fat so overheating can be a bigger problem than staying warm. Polar Bears can swim 6 mph—up to 100 miles at a time—and run as fast as 25 mph.
The tallest bird in North America, the Whooping Crane is able to fly 500 miles a day. Some young cranes hatched in captivity learned their migration routes by following ultralight air craft.
The Black-Footed Albatross lives up to 60 years and may travel thousands of miles in a lifetime, using a specialized gliding technique that saves muscle and energy. It is able to smell food across vast expanses of ocean. Mates court for two years and pair for life.
One of the rarest birds in North America, the female may have up to four mates at one time.
Puffins dive as deep as 200 ft. for food, stay under water for more than a minute, and fly up to 40 mph.
Even though they can't fly, to avoid predators Adélie Penguins are able to leap almost ten feet out of the water and land safely onto rocks. They follow the sun from their breeding colonies to winter feeding grounds, travelling an average of 8,000 miles a year.
Belugas make such a variety of sounds—clicks, twitters, whistles, and mimics of other sounds—they have been nicknamed "sea canaries." As much as 40% of their body mass is blubber, which stores energy and keeps them warm in temperatures as low as 0 °C. The smallest whale on the planet, a baby Beluga gains up to 200 pounds a day.
The Bramble Cay Melomys was a small rodent that lived and foraged in the vegetation of Bramble Cay, a low lying sandy island formed on the surface of the Great Barrier Reef. It was Australia's most isolated mammal.
Pikas, also called "whistling hares" because of their loud song, feed in winter on dried haypiles they have stored near the entrance to their burrows. When haying during late summer they may make up to 100 trips a day.
The largest of all sea turtles, the Leatherback has been on Earth since the dinosaurs—100 million years. It can grow over six feet long, weigh up to one ton, and dive over 3,000 feet—deeper than any other turtle.
One of the smallest sea turtles, the Hawksbill lives 30-50 years and feeds on sponges that are toxic to most other marine animals.
The rarest of whales, the Narwhal—"unicorn of the ocean"—has two teeth, one of which can grow more than nine feet long in the male. The tooth is sensitive to temperatures and chemicals in the water and scientists think it enables males to find food as well as females ready to mate. Narwhals dive deeper than any whales—as deep as 5,000 feet—and stay under for 25 minutes before surfacing for air.
Bees have existed on the planet for at least 40 million years. There are 250 species of bumblebees and seven species of honeybees. Fatter and furrier than honeybees, bumble bees make only a small amount of honey for their own food.
Millions of Monarch butterflies migrate up to 3,000 miles each winter, farther than any other butterfly—travelling 50 to 100 miles a day. The Monarch can smell its mate from 5 miles away.
Sockeye Salmon, once they leave the fresh water where they are born, may travel as far away as 2600 miles before returning to the same waters to spawn, one to four years later.
Coral reefs are the most diverse ecosystems in the marine world and can take 10,000 years to form. They cover less than 1% of the ocean floor but are habitat for at least 25% of all known marine life. A coral is made up of thousands of tiny animals called polyps, protected by a hard skeleton. There are 160 different species of Staghorn Coral.
All Clownfish are born male but some will switch gender to become the dominant female in a group. For protection, they hide among anemone, immune to their poison.
The Emperor is the largest of all penguins, standing as tall as four feet. Males withstand the Antarctic weather for up to two months without eating—keeping the eggs warm in a feathered pouch on their feet. Females travel up to 50 miles a day to bring food to the newly-hatched chicks.
One of 3,500 species of Stoneflies, this rare insect breeds in only a few cold water streams immediately below melting glaciers or next to permanent snowfields in Glacier National Park, USA.
Ivory Gulls build large nests of dry grass, moss, lichen and seaweed. In winter and early spring when food is scarce, foraging Caribou eat the nests. The gulls live in the high Arctic, rarely migrating any farther south than the Bering Sea.
With fur on the bottom of their feet (vulpes lagopus means "hair-footed fox"), reserves of fat, the ability to slow their metabolism when food is scarce, and a thick coat that changes from white to brown or gray with the season, Arctic Foxes are especially adapted to the tundra.