The natural world and its eco systems are being drastically changed today. The original setting and workings of these phenomenons is being affected by a variety of elements in the world and these changes are noticeably visible around us in different ways. The way in which these eco systems function and operate in is being brought into question and their characteristics and contents are changing as a result too. Some of these changes can be traced back to the phenomenon of global warming that is gradually showing its implications on different aspects of human life such as rising temperatures, changing habitats, rising water level, changing living patterns of species, spreading diseases, extinction. (J.T. Price, 2005).
As temperatures rise and go towards extremes, a lot of the changes in the world are going to be visible and the implications of different eco systems can be much more visible than they are currently. An increase in the number of some species of insects and animals while extinction in some others is one of the things that we can see now and would probably see with more severity if the human contributions are not controlled and the natural world is open to these vulnerabilities as they are now. Rise in sea levels, melting of the polar cap and increase in the number of disasters occurring around the world are also linked to the phenomenon of global warming and how they are destroying many eco systems. Spread of diseases and many incurable epidemics is also becoming a threat to the human life and its sustainability. The later sections will shed some more light on how this is coming into effect along with highlighting the link between the eco systems and the concept of global warming (Ecological Impacts of Climate Change, 2008).
What is global warming?
The concept of global warming depicts the changes in the climate and the rise in the average temperatures of the earth which started becoming evident in the late 19th century and is projected to last for the entire 20th century and forth. It is the trapping of heat through the greenhouse gases and entrapping them with no outlet to escape. The main reason that scientific research has joined the dots to, are that of the increasing level of greenhouse gases in the atmosphere. These are the result of human activities and the increased burning of fossil fuels and substances that bring about a concentration of carbon dioxide in the air along with deforestation that is reducing the production of oxygen as well. The industrialization and setting up of factories that do not undertake the precautionary measures are causing a huge threat to the natural eco systems in the world.
The basic results of these actions is the rise in the water level, extreme temperatures, melting polar region, spread of the desert areas, climatic extremities like heat waves, monsoons, natural disasters, droughts and the likes (Allen, 2009).
What is an ecosystem?
An ecosystem can be defined as that unit or system which comes about from the interactions of different living things and through the components of the world in the form of mangroves, marines, forests, humans, animal species and more. Any ecosystem can vary in their size and can be as holistic as the earth itself or as little as a pile of sand where ants live. Any interaction between a living creature and a non-living thing can therefore be termed as a type of ecosystem. Within these systems exists a variety of habitats where an organism or living population can be found of any type. A few examples of abiotic kinds of eco systems can be the air, water, soil, rocks, whereas the animals, humans, insects and plants are types of the biotic kinds of eco systems.
The effects of global warming on the ecosystem
With there being an increasing extent of global warming taking place with a drastic decrease in the amount of habitats and species, the natural ability of adaptation is slowly going down. The climatic and temperature changes are having an effect on almost every aspect of life and of every kind of living population out there. Below are some of these implications highlighted:
There are many species of animals and insects out there that are mainly reliant on the type of climate and season in which they are residing to make decisions about the progress of their lifecycle. For instance, migration, mating and hibernation are programmed according to the season in progress. With more out stretched seasons, drastic temperatures and extremes of conditions, their life cycles are impacted in more than a few ways. The bears in the Polar Regions hibernate in the winters, birds flock towards regions that have summers in search of food and shelter. A few examples of how changes are coming into effect are:
The outstretched and warmer conditions in the U.S. springs have resulted in earlier periods of nesting for about 28 different kinds of migrating birds towards the East Coast of the country.
The birds that flock from the North to the South Eastern regions of America for their winters are now returning back home almost 13 days than they previously used to in the early years of this decade.
During a Californian study, it was found that almost 16 butterfly species out of 23 had started making changes to their migration periods and also flocking in earlier than usual.
These kind of changing patterns have implications in the form of food availability, sustainability, the level of growth, breeding and mating which in turn affects the reproduction and the stable existence of these species (Kimball, 2008).
With the rising temperatures, the species residing in their habitats in the Northern American regions have started shifting upwards towards the North and in the elevation as well. This basically means the submergence of a range of species where some might feel threatened by the invasion and lose their level of comfort and adaptability with the environment. For certain species, this may prove as a wider range of settlement while for the others it may serve to be a mere shrink in their area of movement which affects their overall activities as a result. The habitats existent at the most coldest regions have nowhere else to move now that their space has started being shared.
This is visible in the case of boreal forests which are slowly moving in towards the tundra and threatening the habitats of many diverse and distinct types of species which are reliant on these tundra regions for their survival. These include snowy owls, the caribous as well as the arctic types of foxes. In the regions of United States, the outward expansion of the oak hickory types of forests have subjected to the contraction of maple beech types and almost extinction in case of the spruce fir trees. The warmth of the water with the rising temperatures is slowly resulting in warm water fish having more suitable temperatures to live in and taking over the regions of the colder water resident fish who are feeling threatened. There is a decline in the availability of colder water regions that would be suitable for these fish to migrate in and continue their life cycle. These range shifts are a source of disturbance for the entire ecological system because the activities of particular specie necessarily put the other under threat too.
The effects of the changes in the temperature and climate also effect the production and supply of food as well as the availability of the food to the organisms. For instance, the closing gap of the length and extent of the ice in the sea, results in the shortening supply of algae in the ice which are the main source of survival by the zooplanktons. These zooplanktons then form the food supply of the Arctic cods which are in turn a source of feed for many of the species living in the water such as the seals. The chain keeps going on as these seals are later eaten up by the polar bears. The supply of the algae thus affects the entire chain and their survival (Karl, 2009).
The weather and climate also leads to a shift in the ecology and may result in a rise in the level of parasites, epidemics and diseases that are present in the society. These are a direct threat to the well being of the humans in the form of their food, health and production. The parasites and insects attack the agriculture and the food supply comes in direct relation in this way when the crops are destroyed and eaten up by bug attacks. They contaminate water and some have deadly bites which can spread severe kinds of diseases and causing a strain in terms of health costs, food costs and the death toll as well.