Biology Fieldwork

A Level

Climate change

Millport town

1. Introduction

The UK State of Nature Report 2016 identifies the following impacts of climate change on our native wildlife:

Positive factors

  • Northward expansion of species (often with loss in southern parts of their ranges).
  • Increased winter survival of some species due to milder temperatures.

Negative factors

  • Loss of coastal habitat due to sea level rise.
  • Increases in sea temperatures adversely affecting marine food webs.
  • Changes in seasonal weather patterns, such as winter storms and wetter springs.

The concentration of CO2 in the atmosphere has risen to approximately 30% above natural background levels and continues to rise. Research suggests that this increase is a result of human activities that have occurred over the last 150 years, including the burning of fossil fuels and deforestation. Increased levels of CO2 trap more thermal energy in the atmosphere. It is this ‘greenhouse effect’ that leads to global warming.

Epping Forest, Essex by Hornbeam Arts / CC-BY.

The terrestrial carbon cycle is dominated by uptake of CO2 from the atmosphere by plant photosynthesis. CO2 is released back to the atmosphere due to respiration of plants and animals and CO2 and methane are released due to decomposition of dead organic matter. Trees are unique in their ability to lock up large amounts of carbon in their wood, and forests can be significant stores of carbon.

Whixall Moss, Shropshire by Simon Norman / CC-BY.

Terrestrial carbon cycling occurs within ecosystems which are now almost all subject to intensive human impacts. Land use change and other human impacts on ecosystems have the potential to change the balance of carbon uptake and release in the terrestrial system.