One of the reasons climate change is such an important topic is that it will affect (and already is affecting) the natural biological systems. Both plants and animals will have to respond to the changing climate. In some cases, this means adapting to higher temperatures. In other cases, the changes may be alterations in the precipitation, length of growing season, availability or resources, or other influences.
While some animals can adapt, others will have to migrate. Obviously migration can be apparent in mobile animals that will move to maintain a more or less similar climate to that to which they are accustomed.
But animal and plant movement does not occur in just a changing climate. It also has to navigate changes to the landscape that humans create. For instance, increased land allocation to agriculture or urbanization can create barriers for free migration. So, what scientists really want to know is how these two factors (climate change and land use change) will collectively affect the patterns of animal and plant movement.
Scientists have known for a while that the world’s oceans play a big role in the climate because they absorb carbon dioxide, both naturally occurring and the carbon we put in the atmosphere through burning fossil fuels.
But some new research is sounding the alarm about what all that carbon is doing to the oceans.
How much carbon is too much?
The new findings were researched by scientists from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) and the Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution and published in the Journal of Geophysical Research: Oceans.
Lead scientist Sophie Chu from MIT and her team went into the Northeast Pacific initially to test how carbon in the water was affecting pteropods, animals like free-floating sea snails and sea slugs. They chose this area because, according to Chu, it is the end of the world’s ocean circulation system and contains a lot of the ocean’s naturally occurring carbon.
“This puts the Pacific at this already heightened state of high carbon and low pH,” Chu says. The lower the pH, the more acidic the water.