By Dr. Meghna Krishnadas, Ecologist
Senior Scientist, Council of Scientific and Industrial Research–Centre for Cellular and Molecular Biology (CSIR–CCMB)
The Earth is changing. In the past 200 years, human pursuits have produced large amounts of ‘greenhouse gases’ that warm the atmosphere. The dramatic increase in global temperatures have shifted air and ocean currents – setting in motion changes to the climate at different places across the world as we have known them for most of human history. Climate change will affect not only human societies and practices (e.g., agriculture), but rejig the entire suite of life on earth. Species will change and along with it the variety and distribution of living forms – biodiversity.
Climate and vegetation
A changing climate – long-term trends and averages in the weather at a site – can affect biodiversity from individual species through to entire ecosystems. At large spatial scales, a changing climate can shift the type of vegetation. The varieties of vegetation we see today (called biomes) arose from the historical climate at different places. Rainforests need wet and humid conditions, low rainfall sites have dry forests or grassland, and icy cold favors sedges, grasses and moss that we find in a tundra. If the climate at a site is changing, we can anticipate that the vegetation will too. Vegetation forms the foundation of most terrestrial ecosystems, so changes therein can reshape the total biodiversity we find at different places.