Global warming is seriously endangering biodiversity, shows a major new scientific review, involving more than 30 scientists from Australia, New Zealand and the Pacific.
The review is carried in thehe special issue of the scientific journal Pacific Conservation Biology, launched at the International Conference for Conservation Biologists in Auckland. The review also presents options for governments managing complex ecosystems.
One of the two main editors, Professor Richard Kingsford, Director of Australian Wetlands and Rivers Centre at the University of New South Wales says: "Biodiversity in our region is already severely impacted by habitat loss, pollution, feral animals and weeds and overharvesting. Climate change impacts just make these problems much worse".
Eight scientific reviews focus on current scientific understanding of climate change in Australia, New Zealand and the Pacific Islands and also how this varies on land, sea and freshwater environments.
Not unsurprisingly, all papers identify temperature rise and sea level rise as having considerable impacts on biodiversity.
"People and their environments on Pacific Islands have been in the vanguard of global impacts of climate change and this is predicted to worsen as sea levels rise. Beach nesting turtles and seabirds and freshwater wetlands are particularly vulnerable," says Kingsford.
The other editor, Dr James Watson of the Wildlife Conservation Society and President of the Oceania Board of the Society for Conservation Biology, warns that climate change impacts affect land, marine and freshwater environments in many different ways.
"Temperature rises on terrestrial environments are going to change where animals and plants can live in the future, with some species particularly vulnerable to extreme temperatures," Dr Watson says. "In marine systems, sea level rise and the impacts of temperature and acidification on coral reef systems are of particular concern. Our freshwater rivers and wetlands are also extremely vulnerable to rising temperatures and changes to rainfall beyond the tolerances of many different organisms."
The consequences of climate change are inevitable, given the lack of effective global initiatives to limit greenhouse gases and so all the papers also canvas adaptation options for environments and governments, according to Kingsford.
"There are some obvious things we can do," he says. "If we stopped unsustainable practices - such as developing rivers, clearing vegetation and destroying marine habitats - we would make for much more resilient environments."