Category Archives: Plants & Animals

7 American Species Threatened by Global Warming

Canada Lynx
The Canada lynx is at risk because of changes to the snowpack caused by climate change.

With the political debate heating up over the American Clean Energy and Security Act, it's easy to lose sight of what the fight is about.

Yes, this is about people and jobs and freeing ourselves from foreign oil and creating a clean energy economy for the 21st century. But it's also about our natural heritage and the wildlife with which we share this planet.

Species from blue whales to butterflies confront growing threats. Their habitats are rapidly changing along with the climate. Global warming is pushing nature to the brink.

That's why we launched a new campaign, Warming and Wildlife, where we document the story through the prism of seven "ambassador species" from across America already struggling to survive.

Without action, there's a good chance these species won't make it – we could lose them in our lifetimes.

Our seven ambassador species are:

The bumper sticker is right: Extinction is forever. But, it doesn't have to be inevitable, not if we each do our part to cap America's global warming pollution and unleash the clean energy economy of the 21st century.

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Old-Growth Forests Still Taking Up Carbon

Lisa Moore's profileOld Growth ForestOld-growth forests hold vast amounts of carbon from centuries of growth, and this carbon would be released into the atmosphere if the trees were cut down. That much has been known for a long time, which is why Environmental Defense Fund so strongly advocates a plan to reduce deforestation in developing countries.

But new research shows that old-growth forests are even more important than previously thought. According to a new study in Nature, old-growth forests aren’t just standing there maintaining the status quo. They still actively take up CO2 from the atmosphere.

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Extinctions Increase with Global Warming

This post is by Lisa Moore, Ph.D., a scientist in the Climate and Air program at Environmental Defense.

Earth is home to millions of species. This rich biodiversity isn't just beautiful, it's also tremendously valuable. As just one example, consider coral reefs. They support fisheries that are the main source of protein for a billion people, and bring billions of tourist dollars into local economies.

Scientists have warned that climate change puts a large fraction of Earth's species at risk for extinction. Most of these predictions are based on comparisons between species' apparent climate requirements to projections of future conditions. A new study [PDF] in the Proceedings of the Royal Society B looks at the relationship between climate and biodiversity from a different perspective: the Earth's deep past. The study found a long-term correlation between global temperature and extinction.

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Climate News: Creeping Shrubs and Record Heat

The author of today's post, Lisa Moore, Ph.D., is a scientist in the Climate and Air program.

This week I came across several interesting articles related to climate, but two in particular caught my eye. In the first, scientists found that excess carbon dioxide (CO2) may be what's leaving livestock with less food to eat. The other study explores the role of greenhouse gases on the record-breaking heat Americans experienced in 2006.

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Drive-by Extinction

The author of today's post, Lisa Moore, Ph.D., is a scientist in the Climate and Air program.

Last weekend's Mercury News ran a news story about vehicle emissions harming native species in California. The excess nitrogen from vehicle emissions caused invasive species to displace the plants that feed the bay checkerspot butterfly, which is threatened with extinction. My friend and colleague Dr. Stuart Weiss, the scientist who uncovered the link, calls this "drive-by extinction".

Nitrogen pollution has profound effects on life, health, and climate, yet these go mostly unnoticed by policymakers and the public.

Bay Checkerspot Butterfly

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Ozone Alert For Plants

The author of today's post, Lisa Moore, Ph.D., is a scientist in the Climate and Air Program.

If you're in or near a big city, you've probably heard your local news give ozone alerts. Those warnings mean that smog levels are high enough to affect your lungs. Even moderate pollution causes respiratory problems for kids with asthma. Really high levels of ozone make it dangerous for even the healthiest adult to be outdoors.

Now scientists are warning that smog could make global warming worse because of its effects on plants.

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Climate News: Hurricanes, Rainfall and Rainbow Trout

Guest blogger Lisa Moore, Ph.D., is a scientist in the Climate and Air Program.

Last week, Bill summarized two new studies about carbon dioxide levels in the atmosphere and ocean. This week brought three very different topics: hurricanes (quite timely, since today is the first day of the Atlantic hurricane season!), global rainfall patterns and rainbow trout.

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Also posted in Extreme Weather | Comments closed

Part 3 of 5: Shifts in Lifecycle Timing

The second installment of the IPCC's 4th Assessment on Climate Change, titled "Impacts, Adaptation and Vulnerability", was released on April 6, 2007. In recognition of this report, I'm doing a weekly series called "Climate Dangers You May Not Know About".

1. More Acidic Oceans
2. Drinking Water and Disease
3. Shifts in Lifecycle Timing
4. Drought and Violence
5. Melting of the North Pole


Spring is finally here, and lifecycles are on display all around us — flowers are blooming, birds are migrating, eggs are hatching. The signs of spring may seem simple, but actually they're intricately choreographed. Flowers bloom when insects are around to pollinate them; migrating birds and newborns normally arrive when there is food for them to eat. Life's fragile choreography is based on signals from the environment, such as light or warmth. As global temperatures rise, what happens to all those cues?

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Posted in Plants & Animals | 5 Responses, comments now closed
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