Can you talk through exactly what biodiversity is and why it’s important? As the climate warms, the inevitable response of the cryosphere is enhanced melting. The melting of glaciers and loss of snow has a cascading effect … Coursera.org today to enroll for free in his course Mountains 101. In my own work, I focused on ecological interactions, but I can’t avoid thinking about the physical parts of those environments, particularly snow and ice, and how species are affected by changes that are occurring in the cryosphere. Another big disturbance in the 1990s and early part of the 2000s was a huge outbreak of spruce bark beetle. Since industrial times, atmospheric CO2 has increased from about 280 parts per million up to where it is right now, about 415 parts per million. This has had, and will continue to have, profound … So, those are just some of the really dramatic examples that we’ve seen in the glaciers. And while we might zoom in on one species, like a pica, those individuals live within a much larger context. For other species, they might be fine, and other species will simply move. BBC Weather's climate change site. And so, anywhere on coastlines in every country around the Earth, where people live within a meter of the current high-tide level, will be experiencing a higher frequency of storm surges, an inundation of flooding. A glacier is a slowly moving mass river of ice formed by the build-up and compaction of snow. There, he’s an Associate Dean of the Faculty of Science as well as a Professor of Biological Sciences. Coursera [00:10:24]: And as we’re talking about ways that we as humans can adapt, I know we’re already starting to see how the world around us is already adapting plants, animals, et cetera. Coursera [00:00:00]: From Coursera, this is Emma Fitzpatrick, and today, I’m talking to Dr. David Hik of Simon Fraser University in Canada. A recent study he did found that 80 percent of the glaciers in Alberta and British Columbia could melt in the next 50 years. So, one of the fairly universal responses to warming that we observe is a shift, an upward shift, in the limit of treeline, the altitudinal limit of treeline and shrub line and Tundra. Flee the melt. Those are important changes. See our study on Fisheries. Coursera [00:12:03]: So, when we talk through adapting versus going extinct, are those types of plants and animals–where they’re in a more vulnerable ecosystem, or there’s really just not a place for them to relocate and adapt– are those the ones that you think will be more likely to go extinct versus adapt? Take the American pika, which lives along mountains in the western United States: To get to cooler weather, all these squeaky critters need to do is climb a few hundred meters uphill. But that sort of range of variation is going to be limited to the environmental variation that has been typical of, say, the last 10,000 years or 100,000 years. Dr. David Hik [00:12:22]: Right? So, the forest there is predominantly white spruce, and the bark beetle killed about 350,000 hectors of the forest in that part the Yukon–and left all of these standing dead trees. He points to Denmark as an example: This uniformly flat region doesn't host a single endemic mammal, bird, or amphibian. In an interconnected world, we may all suffer impacts caused by melting ice elsewhere, and settlements may be affected by sea level rises in diverse and different ways. Coursera [00:03:44]: Yeah, It’s hard to talk about some of these issues without talking about all of the ways that they’re interconnected with the different ecosystems around. Ancient creatures across the globe from bats to frogs faced a difficult decision: adapt to the hotter conditions or move, usually north or up mountains, to chase the receding cooler breezes. Melting glaciers have many effects. Meltwater is the water released from the melting of snow or ice. So, several things: some of them are technological, and others are preventing and halting the decline of critical ecosystem services that are actually extremely important in stabilizing the atmosphere of the planet. © 2020 Coursera Inc. All rights reserved. The cryosphere is the part of the Earth system comprised of frozen water: ice sheets and glaciers, snow, permafrost and sea ice. Some 1.3 billion rely on water flowing from the mountains, which could dry up … Nearly 21,000 years ago, during what scientists call the Last Glacial Maximum, thick ice tracts swaddled much of North America and Europe. We tend to think of natural places, and mountains in particular, as very interdisciplinary environments. The coming marches of many animals will likely dwarf what scientists like Sandel have seen following the waning of the Ice Age. Dr. David Hik [00:10:54]: Yeah. A new study of historic climate patterns suggests that, as our current world warms, slower-moving critters may go extinct in far greater numbers than their speedier counterparts. Coursera [00:15:29]: Yeah, and I’m intrigued by the idea that we brought up earlier about how interconnected everything is. Dr. David Hik [00:15:29]: So, there are isolated populations, say at lower elevations or on mountain peaks, those are the individuals and the populations that are probably at risk. Issues like the melting of glaciers point to the intricate balance that exists on our planet and to the essential nature of water to our survival. That's because temperatures tend to be uniform across uniform landscapes, he says, meaning that animals will have to migrate long distances to reach cooler locales, putting locals at greater risks of extinction during times of change. So, we’re on that trajectory, and this is why there’s such an urgency to try to stabilize carbon emissions as quickly as possible within this decade to prevent the most dangerous warming from occurring. It’s snow, it’s ice, and it’s permafrost or frozen ground. And as always, thanks for listening and happy learning. Melting Glaciers and the Impact on Terrestrial Animals What is a melting glacier? Coursera provides universal access to the world’s best education, partnering with top universities and organizations to offer courses online. Often, we look at individual species, but species exist within a larger community. I don’t think people would notice a change in the ecosystem if caribou were lost from mountain environments. There’s other things besides climate change, but climate change tends to exacerbate all of those other factors. Some areas will be more vulnerable than others. Half of humanity relies on water that flows out of mountains either from snow or glaciers, into the lowlands. We’re moving now into a climate state with warming that is being realized and predicted that is outside of the last 5 million years of Earth history. Emergency Preparedness: How Much Food & Water Per Person, Prof. Aptheker on Activism, Suffrage & Intersectional Feminism, Education in America: History, Purpose, Reform, and Access, Effects of glaciers melting on the environment and humans, What cities and countries will be most vulnerable to sea-level rise, How does climate change affect plants and animals, What happens to animals that cannot adapt to the changes in their environment, What is biodiversity and why it’s important. So, for example, about 20 percent of the surface area of those glaciers has been lost in the last 50 years, and it’s highly visible. With an increase in sea water temperature and rising sea levels, the aquatic plant species will be affected firstly. Melting glaciers also threaten the food supply. The world's rapidly melting glaciers has disastrous consequences on the animals that rely on them for survival. thus causing negative effects to earth such as the polar ice melting, the sea level rising, melting glaciers, agriculture. Dr. David Hik [00:07:24] : Well, I think the increase in alternative energy sources–so solar, wind, geothermal–those are being implemented much more rapidly than was initially predicted and could certainly replace a large part of the fossil fuel consumption. The glaciers are thinning by a meter a year. Glacial Melting Put Animals on the Run. But, conservation of energy will be important as well. And a lot of the work that I’ve been focusing on looks at species interactions so herbivores that eat plants or pollinators that rely on a variety of different species. If we wait for things to fully break down, that is rather late to start to try to restore that damage. The findings highlight the importance of giving animals enough room to move freely in the face of future climate change, researchers say. And I’ve been studying those environments for all of that time. Glaciers are melting because the temperature across the globe has gone upward, helping the cause of ice glaciers melting faster than Sea ice, on the other hand, is often compared to ice cubes in a glass of water: when it melts, it does not directly change the level of water in the glass. They probably can stabilize if the global temperature increases around 1.5 degrees, but at two degrees, we see these glaciers disappear almost entirely by the end of the century. But if you were someone who lived in the area, these would all be changes that you couldn’t help but notice either. It can also affect animal and plans that depend on melt-water from glaciers, while in the longer term it can cause ocean levels to rise. We expect to see a two-degree warming with about 450 parts per million CO2 in the atmosphere. Dr. David Hik[00:01:24]: Well, the Yukon is a remarkable place. And I think that’s the risk that we’re trying to mitigate is how much of a decline in species can we see in a particular place without losing the integrity of that system as a whole? Such changes in stream habitat may also adversely impact native trout and other keystone salmon species. Just four years ago, we had one of those big rivers that’s fed by the Kaskawulsh Glacier essentially divert from the Arctic Basin into the Pacific Basin. Ice is melting worldwide, especially at the Earth’s poles. So, the cryosphere is the frozen part of the natural environment. But in many ways, the biggest changes are the things that you see happening right in front of you, year after year as you return. In 2013, a large bulk carrier transited the Northwest Passage for the first time. Where glaciers are melting into the ocean, they contribute to sea-level rise. People have used this to try to determine if some habitats are at greater risk than others. Coursera [00:02:44]: And of course you’re a scientist, so you’ve got that eagle eye to really be noticing these things. And in a number of places, they’re down to sort of the last five or six individuals, so they’re functionally extinct. Coursera [00:13:41]: And do you know, from your research or studies, how long that adaption process happens? It’s fascinating. Because of melting sea ice, ... Measurements showed those animals lost 10 percent or more of their body mass. We’ll start to notice that there’s species of fishes that have disappeared completely, from coral reefs as they disappear. And we see the projections are at the current rate that greenhouse gases are increasing in the atmosphere. Because physical geography connects different places together, the melting of glaciers in distant places can impact on people living in the UK in varied ways. As water gets warmer, it occupies a larger volume. My favorite species that I’ve been studying for many years are rock rabbits, or pikas, that live in boulder fields–high, high in the mountains–and they’ve been around for 40 million years. The plankton example that we were talking about a bit earlier, that study was over 120 years. And 20 million people that live in the coastal areas of Bangladesh are already affected by salinity and drinking water and contamination of groundwater. In a 2009 paper published in Nature, researchers coined the term "climate velocity" to describe the pace of such mass migrations. Up at the same time that temperatures increase, moisture-loving amphibians would need to move faster... 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