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
Koalas live in the woodlands of Australia. Thick fur and skin make it difficult for them to adapt to rising temperatures. Increased CO2 in the air produces less protein in the eucalyptus leaves, forcing the Koala to search for other sources of food and, in times of high heat, water. On the ground, the slow moving Koalas are prey to wild dingoes and domestic dogs, or are hit by cars as they cross roads. Their habitats are also being destroyed by drought, bush fires and development.
The Bramble Cay Melomys was the first species to be declared extinct because of climate change. Sea level rise and storm surges washed away its habitat, food and the last of the population. In 2014 scientists went searching in the hopes of starting a breeding program but were unable to find a pair. Other sea birds and turtles that live on the Cay are also threatened by storm surges and sea level rise.
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.
Ivory Gulls are almost entirely dependent on sea ice and glaciers for nesting and food foraging. They feed on fish and shellfish that thrive near the edge of the ice, and on the remains of seals left by Polar Bears. Seal blubber is a source of heavy contaminants—Ivory Gull eggs show a higher concentration of mercury and pesticides than any Arctic sea bird. Other threats are illegal hunting and disturbance from diamond mining in the Canadian Arctic.