Tuesday, 22 February 2011

Global Warming Effects on Animals

To get a better understanding of global warming, it is important to understand the greenhouse effect. The greenhouse effect is the rise in the temperatures caused by absorption of the Sun’s heat and light by the Earth's surface (forest, deserts, glaciers, etc.), which then is reflected back and trapped within the Earth’s atmosphere. The greenhouses gases, help to keep the Earth warm, and this is the reason why life on Earth has existed, and still thrives. However, with an increase in the gases like carbon dioxide, ozone, nitrous oxide, methane and water vapor in the atmosphere, as a fallout to growing environmental pollution; industrial, domestic, and loss of vast stretches of grassland and rain forest, Earth has gotten nearly 14% hotter than what it used to be 50 years ago, with 2005 being recorded as the hottest year ever. Besides humans and plants, global warming effects on animals is a cause of concern. Let's take a look at the global warming causes, effects and the future vis-a-vis animals.

Effect of Global Warming on Animals
Animals are essential to maintain the circle of life and the food chain. It is just not the animals alone, insects, reptiles, and the aquatic life are all interdependent on each other, and on the plants and humans as well.

Loss of Habitat and Food
To make room for an ever growing population, many forests, grasslands, and even deserts, have been made habitable, only for humans that is.Rainforests and grasslands support many life forms; it is home to the tiny insects and also the mighty, grizzly bears. When forests are cleared out to develop more land for domestic constructions, industrial reasons and farming, most of these animals have to adapt themselves to live in shrinking areas, where everything for them becomes less; food, water, hunting and breeding ground. Loss of habitat also makes these animals vulnerable to being hunted down, either in their own little space, or when they come close to human habitats searching for food. Withdeforestation, many trees and other plants, that provide food to herbivorous animals no longer exist, causing death due to starvation and malnutrition. This in turn has taken its toll on all other omnivorous and carnivorous animals too, making the entire animal life susceptible to extinction. Many animals, domestic or wild, who venture into the human habitat for food, eat from the garbage, mostly picking up plastic, rusted metal or contaminated food. This too has a devastating effect on their health.

As global warming causes climate change, many great deserts like the Sahara, are no longer able to sustain their animal population. Loss of habitat is most vividly seen in the Arctic, where global warming is melting the glaciers, pushing the polar bears into extinction. The melting glaciers have caused water levels to rise in many oceans, threatening to drown many tropical islands and forests, that teem with animal life. The Gulf war oil spills, along with oil tanker spills, have devastated a large number of aquatic life. The pictures of dead fishes covered in oil on many beaches, is a sad reflection of the future that lies in store for them. Changes in weather patterns and coastlines affect the food patterns of most aquatic creatures.

Hibernation, Breeding and Migration
Studies now indicate a change in the hibernation, breeding, and migration patterns of animals. It is believed that hibernation and egg laying or animal birth, which are important aspects of animal life, are now happening on an average of 5.1 days earlier per decade. This unhealthy pattern affects the newborn, and quite a few are now born with defects, or are stillborn. Early egg laying is one of the reasons why insects likebutterflies, and small birds, are disappearing fast in North America, where higher temperatures lead to earlier spring seasons. Many animals and birds, including penguins or flamingos, travel long distances to warmer climates, for breeding purposes. Devastation of the migratory routes and their habitat, has forced many of them to alter or not migrate at all. This forces them to seek alternative migration habitats, where they have to compete for food and shelter with other migratory or resident animals and birds. The same is also happening in case of aquatic mammals, who prefer warmer waters for breeding and hibernation. Animals that migrate depending on seasonally-linked phenomena, such as the formation of ice, lakes and other water bodies, and the availability of seasonal foods, also suffer, when the environmental conditions around their migratory destination changes.

Global warming affects us all. The only difference being, we, humans can have a profound effect on the way global warming issues are tackled. Global warming effects on animals will have serious repercussions on the entire life cycle. Life on the planet thrives, because we thrive on each other and because of each other. Any link broken or weakened will affect all life on Earth, and some of the consequences will be irreversible.