The Earth's climate has been relatively stable for the past 10,000 years, but it is now changing. Average global temperatures have jumped by almost half a degree in just the last 25 years. Although this does not sound significant, such drastic temperature rise is unprecedented, and this could have major implications. Because of thermal expansion of water and melting glaciers, sea levels could rise and coral reefs bleached and destroyed. Rising temperatures could also lead to regional wind systems, which would influence global rainfall distribution and lead to a higher frequency of droughts and forest fires.
Climate change will also mean that the survival of individual species will depend on their ability to migrate away from increasingly unfavourable conditions to climate zones that meet their needs. Not all species will be able to do this and for those who will, the migration will result in greater pressure on the resources of their newly found habitats.
Earthwatch is responding to the urgent need to understand and quantify the impacts of climate change on the planet and its species. Climate-change related extinctions, such as the golden toad of Costa Rica, could become more frequent occurrences if we are unable to manage the causes and mitigate the effects. Scientists have previously warned that 25% of land-based species have no future if temperatures continue to rise as climate experts predict.
Earthwatch supports 140 research projects worldwide, offering members of the public the chance to work alongside leading field scientists and play their part in the conservation of our environment. These research projects address the important environmental issues that require detailed, long-term study to find practical conservation solutions. For example, Earthwatch-supported project ‘Monitoring British Mammals', led by Dr. Chris Newman and Dr. Christina Buesching (both of Oxford University's Wildlife Conservation Research Unit) and assisted by Earthwatch field researchers is helping to predict the risk of the exceptionally dry springs to the Wytham Woods, Oxfordshire badger population and suggest mitigating action.
Over the past two decades, reefs throughout Jamaica have been seriously degraded by environmental changes, including an increased number of hurricanes associated with global warming, and a plague of coral diseases. Earthwatch and Dr. James Crabbe (University of Reading) are working to estimate the impact of multiple environmental factors and the future prospects of Caribbean reefs. The data from ‘Jamaica's Coral Reefs' project is establishing models of coral reef recruitment and growth to predict their response to future environmental change.
Climate change itself is due to a combination of both natural and human causes, with the main influence being increased emissions of greenhouse gases. The primary greenhouse gas responsible for climate change is carbon dioxide (CO2) and the largest source of CO2 emissions is power stations, accounting for approximately one third of the total. With atmospheric carbon dioxide levels escalating, it is imperative we decrease our individual carbon dioxide emissions.
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For more information, please contact: Sabrina Bhangoo, PR Manager, Earthwatch, on + 44 (0) 1865 318852 / firstname.lastname@example.org
Photo credit: ©Simon Wallace/EWE