Staghorn CoralLatin name: Acropora Cervicornis,
Conservsation status: critically endangered (population is stable)
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.
In the last 30 years the Staghorn Coral population has decreased by 80% from disease, pollution, development and damage. Climate change is increasing the risk of extinction. Corals live in symbiotic (mutually beneficial) relation with algae. The coral receives nutrients and oxygen from algae, and the algae receive nutrients and carbon dioxide from the coral. Rising sea temperature increases algae growth so oxygen levels become too high for the coral, causing "bleaching"—the coral expels the algae and dies. Higher ocean acidity contributes to bleaching and also reduces the ability of corals and other marine animals to build hard shells. Other threats from climate change are sea level rise, changes in currents and storm damage.
Other animals effected by climate change
Polar Bears live only in the Arctic. Loss of sea ice has a critically adverse effect on Polar Bears. They hunt from the edge and build snow dens on the ice for resting and raising their cubs. Sea ice decline could open the Arctic to shipping and tourism, further disturbing Arctic habitats. Other threats are oil development and industrial pollution that reaches the Arctic through air and ocean currents.
In winter, the sun doesn't rise south of the Antarctic Circle. If Antarctic sea ice decreases and does not extend far enough to the north, Adélie Penguins, during their winter migration, may not be able to reach the sunlight needed to navigate, hunt and avoid predators—they won't dive in the dark. Other threats are oil pollution, fishing and disturbance of colonies from research stations and aircraft.
In 50 years, the mean temperature of western Antarctica has risen nearly 3 °C—more than any other region—reducing the extent and thickness of winter ice. The Emperor Penguin is dependent on the ice for breeding, raising chicks and moulting. Less sea ice decreases zooplankton (krill) which feed on algae that grow on the underside of the ice. Krill are an important part of the food web for the Emperor and other Antarctic marine species.
The Arctic tundra is a region of shrubs, grasses and permanently frozen subsoil. Warming could change the tundra to boreal forest—habitat for the Red Fox. The Red Fox, a predator and a competitor for food, is already beginning to migrate north into the Arctic Fox's territory. Milder tundra weather also causes changes in the population of lemmings and rodents—main food for the Arctic Fox.