Coral reefs cover less than 1% of the ocean floor, yet provide food and shelter for over one-third of all marine fish (10).
Nutritious whitebark pine seeds are a major food source for grizzly bears in western North America. The ability of a grizzly sow to successfully bare young is linked to pine seed abundance - more seeds mean healthier bear families (11). Unfortunately, whitebark pine is vulnerable to the impacts of climate change. Warm temperatures allows pine blister rust - a deadly, introduced fungus - to thrive and spread, killing up to 90% of whitebark pine in a given area (12). Less trees, less seeds, less bears.
In Costa Rica and North America, disastrous losses in frog, toad and salamander populations are climate related (13). With less winter precipitation, breeding pools aren't deep enough to protect eggs and tadpoles from damaging ultraviolet rays. Weakened by UV-B radiation, they become susceptible to fungal infection, dying at epidemic rates. With inadequate water, over 50% of western toads succumb to fungal infection (14).
In many reptiles, temperature determines the sex of offspring. Increased global temperatures could seriously skew sex ratios. A shortage of either sex could undermine a species' ability to replace itself from generation to generation. In painted turtles, offspring sex ratio is correlated with mean July temperature (15). Even a modest temperature increase (2 - 4°C), could dramatically reduce the number of male turtles produced (16).
Many songbirds are laying their eggs earlier in the United Kingdom. One-third of U.K. bird species are starting families 8.8 days sooner than usual (17). Birds of every feather are picking up the nesting pace: waterbirds, resident and migrant insect eaters, and seed-eaters are all responding to earlier spring-like temperatures and longer growing seasons.
Arctic regions will experience the strongest global warming as carbon dioxide levels rise. Over half of the tundra is expected to be replaced by boreal forest. Approximately 14 million Calidrid sandpipers (95% of the world's population) raise young on the tundra (18). Scientists expect 7.5 million sandpipers to be lost as climate change eliminates their habitat (19).
In four years of unprecedented warm winters Adelie and Chinstrap penguin populations on King George Island have declined by 40 and 35% (20), respectively. Sea-ice cannot form on Antarctic seas warmed by climate change. The krill that typically feed on the algae are the primary food source of the penguins. As krill becomes scarce, penguins starve.
Many arctic animals rely on the predictable ebb and flow of sea ice for food and shelter:
Arctic cod are an important food source for seals and whales. Cod gather underneath sea ice, feeding on zooplankton. The abundant zooplankton subsist off algae that grows on the underside of the ice.
Walruses require a delicate balance of ice thin enough to break through with their heads, but thick enough to support their weight (21).
Narwhals are almost always found close to sea ice. They prefer to forage for arctic cod at ice edges and cracks (22).
Bowhead whales feed on zooplankton, using sieve-like baleen in their mouths to filter massive mouthfuls of the tiny crustaceans (23). Without sea ice, the whales will have little to eat.