Global climate change has been a subject of much discussion for some time now. The earth has naturally gone through heating and cooling phases in its lifetime. Most scientists agree that these changes aren’t solely the product of humans, but that the time required for natural climate change has been decreased due to humans. This has led to new problems for the earth and all of its inhabitants. According to research the earth is warming at an average of 1. 2-1. 4° F every 100 years (epa. gov). Global warming was the first key phrase of this area of research.
This phrase applied only to the average temperature of the earth increasing over time due to humans. Now, there is a new phrase known as “global climate change. ” This expression applies other factors such as: precipitation, temperature, ocean currents, sea level, lengthening seasons, and others to signify that there is more to climate change than solely global warming. These changes in nature last for a very long time (epa. gov). So, how are humans capable of changing the earth in such a short time when nature takes thousands of years to do it?
The answer comes partly from the greenhouse effect. Certain gasses necessary for life build up in the atmosphere and keep the earth’s surface warmer than it normally would be. Human nature, in the quest for industrialization and forms of energy, has led to CO2 concentrations that are already above what past species have had to deal with. Since 1750, concentrations have gone from 278 parts per million to 375 ppm. This means that today there are 3. 75? 10-8 liters of carbon dioxide for every one liter of air.
That is enormous considering the concentration has never been higher in the past 650,000 years. Other gasses that increase the greenhouse effect are methane, CFC’s, nitrous oxide, water vapor, and ozone. Many of these gasses are increased by the burning of fossil fuels, forestry, and industry (theglobaleducationproject. org). Climate change also applies to natural things such as: changes in the earth’s orbit, changes in ocean currents, or changes in the output of the sun (epa. gov). This all leads to very serious complications with the biosphere.
Changes in habitats, rising oceans, destruction or extinction of species, changes in the range or distribution of species, and changes in the growing seasons can all be caused by climate change (epa. gov). On a smaller scale, global climate change can be seen in the chaparral biome. The chaparral biome is one of the most diverse biomes on the entire planet. “The five mediterranean-climate regions of the world occupy less than 5% of the earth’s surface yet harbour about 48,250 known vascular plant species, almost 20% of the world total” (thewildclassroom. om para. 3). This diversity means that all these plants and animals in this biome live together and require things from one another. A small change in one species will have effects on another species in the chaparral biome. The chaparral biome is characterized by mild rainy seasons and hot, dry summers in a temperate climate. One main feature of the chaparral biome is its tendency to have fires. It is one of the most fire prone climates on earth. However, contrary to common belief, the chaparral does not require fires to remain healthy or to survive.
Species do re-grow quickly after fire, but depending on the intensity, frequency, and severity of fires, the chaparral could be irrevocably harmed by fire (californiachaparral. com 4). According to californiachaparral. com, “It is best to think of each type of chaparral as adapted to a particular fire regime rather than just fire. ” The effects of global climate change on the chaparral are seen in fire frequency. Hotter, drier summers and shorter rain seasons have led to a huge increase in frequency and intensity of fires, especially in California.
According to John Keeley, a research ecologist and chaparral expert, “An ecosystem adapted to fire every 60 to 100 years is now burning every 10 years-or even more often” (Mckinney Para. 8). Natural fires in this area are uncommon, and most fires in the chaparral are caused by humans. The changing climate is only making things worse. Eventually, the chaparral could be unable to recover from these fires and non-native species could take over. Two species that are affected by climate change in the chaparral are Spermophilus beecheyi and Prunus_ ilicifolia. Spermophilus beecheyi, commonly known as the California ground squirrel, lives in the chaparral and is primarily an herbivore. This species is a food source for many other animals in its biome. Extinction is not a concern because it can easily move to other biomes and survive. Interestingly enough, in recent times its range has extended into Washington and Nevada (Wikipedia. org). As climate change continues the California ground squirrel may entirely leave the chaparral biome, leaving a smaller food supply for other animals that live in the area.
It is possible that this diminished food supply will decrease the populations of other animals that rely on them for food. In terms of increased fire frequency and intensity, members of this species may be killed during a fire. Prunus ilicifolia, commonly known as the Hollyleaf cherry or Evergreen cherry, is a native plant to the California chaparral. It produces edible cherries that are consumed by herbivores for food. Today, they are a healthy member of chaparral foliage and relied upon as a food source.
This plant requires a long period of time without fire to be fully successful. It’s slow growing but lives for an extended period of time (Wikipedia. org). Fires destroy the seeds because they are not fire-adapted like most chaparral plants. Therefore, increased fires, which are being seen as a result of climate change, stand to completely stop reproduction of the Hollyleaf cherry. Climate change is happening much too fast to expect the plant to evolve or adapt to increased fires.
The evolution of plants and animals has taken thousands, if not millions of years to happen. When things have changed in the environment, nature has adapted alongside it for the survival of many species. Today however, global climate changed has altered the natural laws of evolution and many species are not expected to survive these changes if they continue. In only the last 100 years things have changed dramatically, species can’t be expected to adapt to conditions in such a short amount of time.
It is the duty of the human species to do everything that can be done to help ease the stress on the planet and its inhabitants. Hopefully, these changes are not irrevocable.
- Butler, Rhett A. 2007 Climate change will increase extinction risk, especially in the tropics. http://news. mongabay. com/2007/0326-climate. html Mckinney, John. 2009
- Drought, Not Old Chaparral, Aiding Wildfires. http://www. miller-mccune. com/science_environment/drought-aiding-wildfires-1418 Unknown Author. 2009
- Climate Change. ttp://www. epa. gov/climatechange/basicinfo. html Unknown Author. 2009 World Biomes. http://www. blueplanetbiomes. org/world_biomes. htm Unknown Author. 2003
- Biomes of the World. http://www. thewildclassroom. com/biomes/chaparral. html Unknown Author. 2009
- Climate Change. http://en. wikipedia. org/wiki/Global_climate_change Unknown Author. 2009 California Ground Squirrel. http://en. wikipedia. org/wiki/California_Ground_Squirrel Unknown Author. 2009
- Prunus ilicifolia. http://en. wikipedia. org/wiki/Prunus_ilicifolia