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Australia is home to many of the world’s most unique species. The continent boasts claim to many flora and fauna that are not endemic to anyplace else on earth. With studies confirming that sea levels are on the rise these species may be at risk, with severe troubles ahead. Unfortunately the effects of climate change will affect the distinctive flora and fauna of the continent both on and off shore.
Species of fauna unique to the continent include popular, well-known members such as the koala and platypus, as well as lesser known species like the Giant Australian Cuttlefish and Cooloola Monster, both types of invertebrates. Graphs depicting climate patterns that were once predictable now show change, causing animals of the continent to look for new areas to live or face extinction. The areas where change is most prevalent are the central and eastern zones of Australia, covering Queensland and the Northern Territory. The mapping of these regions is all-encompassing, labeling areas where the change is expected to be most prevalent as well as mapping passages that animals will be able to utilize to access more stable ground.
Experts stress that this map and predictions are not to be considered only if climate issues get worse, but rather that they show definite changes and dire need for understanding of how to adapt to them. The issues that the land of Australia is facing are not as severe as those in the surrounding waters of the continent, at least not yet. Changing temperatures and increasing acidification of the waters are having a big impact on the future health of Australia’s surrounding oceans. One study of the continent’s oceans warns that the main concern is how climate change is affecting the occupants of the water. Due to warming of the tropical waters, another affect of climate change, the iconic and unique species of coral reef are becoming bleached, an unusual occurrence that prior to the late 1970s was not a serious issue.
Farther into the future Australia will be impacted by rising sea levels which will affect coastal land and fresh water sources for many species. Many coastal regions of the continent rely on the health of the ocean waters; without their support many people will be displaced, and when ocean levels rise their homes will be underwater. Studies of Australia’s coastal waters do not consist of data that has been gathered for a long period of time, meaning that exactly how high water levels will rise is not certain, nor is the effect known that climate change will have on the hydrosphere of the area.
Strengthening currents within coastal waters are bringing in invasive species, such as the long-spined sea urchin, which devastate local creatures. Many scientists have faith that out of necessity the species of Australia will adapt quickly to these changes. The areas affected by the changing climate will not balance in the immediate future, though species on the move to find more suitable climate on the continent may have a chance at adapting to a new lifestyle. Some passages that scientists hope animals will use lead offshore, which is a problem in itself.
The climate of the country is facing serious changes, some of which seem irreversible, while others bring hope that affected species will have a chance at survival, and the continent’s great diversity of flora and fauna will adapt rather than disappear. Time will tell how fast negative changes to the coastline happen. Experts are working tirelessly to understand how to combat the serious issues of Australian climate change, with great hope of saving countless species.
By Courtney Heitter