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 at risk
The Shenandoah Salamander lives in an isolated, high altitude region of Shenandoah National Park, USA. Like all amphibians who have thin, permeable skin, salamanders are very sensitive to environmental changes. If average temperatures or moisture increase, this salamander, restricted to its cool micro-climate, will be at risk—having no place to go but to lower, even warmer, altitudes. If warming causes other species of lower altitude salamanders to migrate higher, they will compete for the Shenandoah's cool, moist habitats.
The Narwhal lives mainly in the Atlantic Arctic. Because of specialized habitat, narrow range and limited diet (Arctic cod and halibut), it is one of the Arctic species most vulnerable to climate change. The Narwhal breeds in bays and fjords, moving offshore during winter to areas of heavy ice pack, breathing through the few cracks. Sudden or extreme temperature change can cause these cracks to freeze shut, trapping the whales. Other threats are illegal hunting, industrial activities, and risks from oil development, exploration and shipping in the Arctic.
The annual North American migration of the Monarch is listed as a "threatened phenomenon." Climate related threats include: drought, storms, changes in precipitation and dependence on temperature to trigger migration and reproduction. The Monarch feeds and lays eggs exclusively on milkweed plants, so it is also highly vulnerable to herbicides and habitat destruction.
For decades wild salmon populations have been in decline from human causes: over fishing; habitat degradation—logging, mining, agriculture and dams; pollution; and interaction with hatchery or farmed salmon. These conditions and threats may hinder their ability to adapt to the effects of climate change. Salmon thrive at specific freshwater temperatures—warming air raises water temperature. Early snow melt and increased rains cause physical changes to spawning streams.