The glaciers are thinning by a meter a year. And on that front, how fast exactly are glaciers, ice, snow–that cryosphere that you mentioned– how fast are they melting? Coursera [00:06:24]: Is there anything we can do to slow the melting of the glaciers or prevent that from happening? Can you talk through exactly what biodiversity is and why it’s important? Climate change is continuing to impact the Canadian landscape, as glaciers continue to shrink due to the effects of rising surface temperatures. The coming marches of many animals will likely dwarf what scientists like Sandel have seen following the waning of the Ice Age. Dr. David Hik [00:07:24] : Well, I think the increase in alternative energy sources–so solar, wind, geothermal–those are being implemented much more rapidly than was initially predicted and could certainly replace a large part of the fossil fuel consumption. So, in a sense, when glaciers melt, that creates new ground that can be occupied by plants and ultimately by animals. Then, over thousands of years, those glaciers began to melt and dribble away. Global warming can affect sea levels , coastlines , ocean acidification , ocean currents , seawater , sea surface temperatures ,  tides , the sea floor , weather , and trigger several changes in ocean bio-geochemistry; all of these affect the functioning of a society . So, in a sense, when glaciers melt, that creates new ground that can be occupied by plants and ultimately by animals. Dr. David Hik [00:15:29]: So, there are isolated populations, say at lower elevations or on mountain peaks, those are the individuals and the populations that are probably at risk. Dr. David Hik [00:17:25]: Well, many of the extinctions we’ve seen have been of large mammals, predators in some cases– species that haven’t gone extinct, but they’ve been lost from certain areas in the mountains. Because physical geography connects different places together, the melting of glaciers in distant places can impact on people living in the UK in varied ways. Much of his work has been in mountain regions, specifically the Yukon. Dr. David Hik [00:12:22]: Right? Things like moratoriums on developing Arctic oil and gas–or both stopping deforestation and active efforts to plant trees and capture carbon in natural ecosystems, forests, wetlands. And so, anywhere on coastlines in every country around the Earth, where people live within a meter of the current high-tide level, will be experiencing a higher frequency of storm surges, an inundation of flooding. Certain animals need the temperatures of glaciers for their daily activities. Does it all come back to reducing carbon emissions? And in a number of places, they’re down to sort of the last five or six individuals, so they’re functionally extinct. That’s a territory in Northwest Canada, near Alaska. Arctic marine fisheries … We expect to see a two-degree warming with about 450 parts per million CO2 in the atmosphere. Do you see, from your own experience and work in the Yukon, animal species adapting like this, that you’ve seen firsthand? For more than 30 years, Dr. Hik has been studying mountain regions and has seen firsthand the impact climate change has had. And that, of course, means that the species that live at the tops of the mountains, they run out of room. The melting of glaciers in the Himalayas has doubled over the last two decades because of global warming, a study has warned.. Flee the melt. Coursera [00:12:03]: So, when we talk through adapting versus going extinct, are those types of plants and animals–where they’re in a more vulnerable ecosystem, or there’s really just not a place for them to relocate and adapt– are those the ones that you think will be more likely to go extinct versus adapt? Ice is melting worldwide, especially at the Earth’s poles. These relatively speedy shifts may have driven local animals to extinction, says Brody Sandel, who studies ecoinformatics at Aarhus University in Denmark. A recent study he did found that 80 percent of the glaciers in Alberta and British Columbia could melt in the next 50 years. But our concern right now is that the rate of change in the climate system– the change in temperature, change in snow change in precipitation–is occurring so quickly that they can’t adapt quickly enough. Effects of climate change on oceans provides information on the various effects that global warming has on oceans. Coursera.org today to enroll for free in his course Mountains 101. For instance, amphibians, the "tortoises" in this tortoise-and-a-hare race against climate change, seemed to die off much more than fast-moving animals, the hares, such as many birds. Coursera [00:00:00]: From Coursera, this is Emma Fitzpatrick, and today, I’m talking to Dr. David Hik of Simon Fraser University in Canada. And as we move away from now into a warmer future, the rate of adaptation for some species could be very limited. The big ice sheets in Greenland or in the Antarctic are a little more stable, but mountain glaciers around the world, the mid-latitude glaciers–say in Europe or North America or the Himalaya–they’ve been melting quite rapidly. ... [Melting glaciers] will affect … Flying mammals also survived more on average: "If we split mammals into bats and nonflying mammals, bats behave kind of like the birds.". So, shrews and pikas, lace up those tennis shoes. And we set a limit of 90 percent of the total population that would exist in a pristine version of that habitat that’s sort of free of disturbance and human activity. So, several things: some of them are technological, and others are preventing and halting the decline of critical ecosystem services that are actually extremely important in stabilizing the atmosphere of the planet. So, I always think of a landscape, whether it’s a mountain or a coral reef or a forest in terms of those interconnections. Coursera [00:08:55]: Any cities or countries that would be most vulnerable to climate change and specifically would be most affected by things like sea-level changes? How Melting Glaciers Affect the Food If temperatures keep rising, glaciers will continue melting, and some could disappear completely. Dr. David Hik [00:10:54]: Yeah. Dr. David Hik [00:13:53]: I mean, evolutionary processes can occur fairly quickly, or they can occur over very long periods of time. Coursera [00:04:46]: Yeah. This has had, and will continue to have, profound … But, it is a landscape that I first visited in 1988. Because this is happening, X, Y, and Z are also going to happen?. It’s a wild mountain area that includes Canada’s largest mountain peak glaciers and glacier-fed lakes. Half of humanity relies on water that flows out of mountains either from snow or glaciers, into the lowlands. And I guess the short story is really that we’re still trying to understand and be able to better predict which species will be the winners in those scenarios and which we should be very concerned about and are at greatest risk of extinction. The initial effect on individuals and on the world will be relatively small, but the cumulative effect of that overtime is going to be huge. And we see the projections are at the current rate that greenhouse gases are increasing in the atmosphere. The melting of glaciers and loss of snow has a cascading effect … And we see that in many parts of the world. But, conservation of energy will be important as well. There’s no sort of easy way to tell which individuals are going to be at greatest risk. Since industrial times, atmospheric CO2 has increased from about 280 parts per million up to where it is right now, about 415 parts per million. A new study of historic climate patterns suggests that, as our current world warms, slower-moving critters may go extinct in far greater numbers than their speedier counterparts. So, for example, about 20 percent of the surface area of those glaciers has been lost in the last 50 years, and it’s highly visible. So, for a species that’s adapted to a certain temperature, maybe they just have to move around the other side of the boulder and sort of track their preferred climate. Dr. David Hik is an Associate Dean of the Faculty of Science as well as a Professor of Biological Sciences at Simon Fraser University. For other species, they might be fine, and other species will simply move. Through his research in that area, he’s seen firsthand the impact of climate change and has been studying the long-term effects of a warming planet. He points to Denmark as an example: This uniformly flat region doesn't host a single endemic mammal, bird, or amphibian. The cryosphere is the part of the Earth system comprised of frozen water: ice sheets and glaciers, snow, permafrost and sea ice. And 20 million people that live in the coastal areas of Bangladesh are already affected by salinity and drinking water and contamination of groundwater. And I think that’s the risk that we’re trying to mitigate is how much of a decline in species can we see in a particular place without losing the integrity of that system as a whole? Those are important changes. So while immediate affects of melting glaciers might revolve more around rising sea levels, an equally significant longer-term effect will be reduced water, which results in its own problems. In Yukon, we’ve been able to show that shrubs–little willows and birch shrubs– are advancing upslope and that their density is increasing at … A new study … They weren't just interested in the past—they were concerned about the future. Some 1.3 billion rely on water flowing from the mountains, which could dry up … Coursera [00:08:16]: And as you’re having these conversations and thinking about these issues often, do you personally hold out hope that these large changes and drastic things that need to happen to slow the rate of climate change will happen in time before that point of no return? The five warmest years in the ocean in the last 70 years have been 2019, 2018, 2017, 2016, and 2015. If animals can't move freely from one habitat to the next, then rare species could become stuck in sweltering conditions. I don’t think people would notice a change in the ecosystem if caribou were lost from mountain environments. In Yukon, we’ve been able to show that shrubs–little willows and birch shrubs– are advancing upslope and that their density is increasing at about 5 percent per hector per decade. Coursera [00:13:41]: And do you know, from your research or studies, how long that adaption process happens? The melting of Antarctic ice sheets is one of the most visceral consequences of climate change, but the full extent of their impact on the cycle remains … And so, lake levels dropped by two meters, and the color of the lake changed. In the Mountains, Climate Change Is Disrupting Everything, from How Water Flows to When Plants Flower. Dr. David Hik [00:06:31]: Well, it does. The negative effects of global warming have caused sea levels to rise. Their melting water flows into the soil which affects vegetation which acts as food for animals at lower altitudes, some of which are prey for other animals and so on. They now have thinner shells because of the warming ocean. The world's rapidly melting glaciers has disastrous consequences on the animals that rely on them for survival. Every year, there’s more heat in the oceans, and this will contribute to an increase in sea level. And the oceans are getting warmer. The biggest and most notable impact of these glaciers melting is in the rise of sea level. Why does it matter? Dr. David Hik [00:09:04]: So, sea-level rise is a function of glaciers melting, and of the thermal expansion of water. To begin with, the climate is warming much faster today than it ever did following the Last Glacial Maximum. Today, we’re talking with him in more detail about the impact climate change will have on our environment, how that will impact animal, plant, and human life, and the importance of biodiversity overall. 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In Yukon, we’ve been able to do things like look at changes in the tree line or the shrub line. There, he’s an Associate Dean of the Faculty of Science as well as a Professor of Biological Sciences. Coursera [00:17:15]: And do you have an example to kind of walkthrough, if one plant or animal in an area went extinct, how it could affect the environment around it? So, every part of the world will be affected, and as a result, that just emphasizes to me that this is a global issue that needs a global response. We’ll start to notice that there’s species of fishes that have disappeared completely, from coral reefs as they disappear. But we see the same thing happening in the forest and in the Alpine–and if you look a little more closely to some of the plants and animals that are living in those environments as well. There are a lot of living organisms that rely mainly on glaciers for continued existence. And clearly, they’ve been able to adapt to a variety of situations. And the more we understand of that larger context–historical, and present and future–I think the more attentive we can be to make sure that we don’t lose them in the longterm. And so for the people who live in that part of the world–fairly small communities, far away from larger centers, out along the Alaska Highway. AAAS is a partner of HINARI, AGORA, OARE, CHORUS, CLOCKSS, CrossRef and COUNTER. "The melt rates of glaciers depend critically on the temperature of the ocean they are in contact with. There’s a variety of species that I think I’m concerned about, but I think a lot of species will find ways to surprise us. We’ll start to eventually notice that there aren’t any rhinoceros or elephants or large cats in parts of Africa. The opposite is true for mountainous regions. That's because temperatures tend to be uniform across uniform landscapes, he says, meaning that animals will have to migrate long distances to reach cooler locales, putting locals at greater risks of extinction during times of change. That’s leading to continued melting of glaciers in the Arctic and around the world. They’ll simply shift their current range into an environment that’s more suitable in a different place. As glaciers and the giant ice sheets on Greenland and Antarctica melt, they add more water into the ocean, which causes sea level to rise. They experience these changes firsthand. A glacier is a slowly moving mass river of ice formed by the build-up and compaction of snow. Recently, the temperature in the Arctic appears to have hit a new continental high, close to 70 degrees. So, we talk about the geological origins of mountains, the history of these places. The researchers also only included temperatures, not precipitation, in their climate maps, likely because ancient rainfall estimates remain shoddy, he adds. When glaciers melt, because that water is stored on land, the runoff significantly increases the amount of water in the ocean, contributing to global sea level rise. Many of them, the traditional homes of First Nation People in Northwestern Canada. Many people know it, probably from the Klondike Gold Rush and the sort of colorful history of what happened at the end of the 1800s. Another big disturbance in the 1990s and early part of the 2000s was a huge outbreak of spruce bark beetle. Adoption of electric vehicles, more efficient ways of transportation, seem to be being adopted very quickly as well. That means the surface is melting, and they’re getting thinner and smaller. My favorite species that I’ve been studying for many years are rock rabbits, or pikas, that live in boulder fields–high, high in the mountains–and they’ve been around for 40 million years. Sooner or later, there’s no more mountain for them to occupy, and there are some good examples now of species that are restricted to high mountains, and mountain tops that are actually disappearing. Some animals require the cool temperatures for their day to day activities like the blue bear. They probably can stabilize if the global temperature increases around 1.5 degrees, but at two degrees, we see these glaciers disappear almost entirely by the end of the century. Some aquatic insects--fundamental components of the food web--are especially sensitive to stream temperature and cannot survive without the cooling effects of glacial meltwater. Glacial Melting Since glaciers are melting, many organisms are being affected. Following the Last Glacial Maximum, species seemed to die off en masse in regions experiencing rapid shifts in temperatures (shown in yellow and red), but they held on in many hilly regions like the Andes (inset). BBC Weather's climate change site. This includes mountain glaciers, ice sheets … Or if you’re a member of the press, set up an interview with Dr. David Hik or learn more about the topics he can speak to. All rights Reserved. Cool-weather animals, put on your running shoes. And I’ve been studying those environments for all of that time. For example, the melting of glaciers will affect drinking supplies of the millions who rely on meltwater rivers. It’s snow, it’s ice, and it’s permafrost or frozen ground. Fresh Water Shortage The Effects of Melting Glaciers Risks Person Person Team Intro Since 1850, melting glaciers has always been a huge problem. And all of that water is flowing out through the rivers and the lakes and ultimately into the oceans. Just four years ago, we had one of those big rivers that’s fed by the Kaskawulsh Glacier essentially divert from the Arctic Basin into the Pacific Basin. Coursera [00:15:21]: And when you’re thinking about what animals and plants you’re most concerned about as the planet warms, what are the ones on top of your list? Long migrations could have big consequences for conservation in the face of future climate change, Sandel says. Melting Glaciers and the Impact on Terrestrial Animals What is a melting glacier? Coursera [00:20:06]: To keep learning from Dr. David Hik, go to Coursera.org today to enroll for free in his course Mountains 101. As you study glaciers melting, do you specifically look at that one issue? I’d love to hear, from your perspective, how has the landscape in the Yukon, where you’ve done a lot of research over years and decades, changed from when you first visited it? Coursera [00:10:24]: And as we’re talking about ways that we as humans can adapt, I know we’re already starting to see how the world around us is already adapting plants, animals, et cetera. But it’s a sort of intrinsic loss of beautiful things in nature that we will start to notice. With an increase in sea water temperature and rising sea levels, the aquatic plant species will be affected firstly. And that’s led globally to an increase of 1.1 degrees. Some areas will be more vulnerable than others. So, those are just some of the really dramatic examples that we’ve seen in the glaciers. When snow and ice and frozen ground either thaws or melts– when it undergoes a phase change from being a solid to a liquid–those effects are dramatic. Below, listen to the conversation or read the transcript, and hear Dr. David Hik’s thoughts on: Enroll for free in his course Mountains 101 on Coursera. Daniel Strain is a writer living in Washington, D.C. © 2020 American Association for the Advancement of Science. But if you were someone who lived in the area, these would all be changes that you couldn’t help but notice either. © 2020 Coursera Inc. All rights reserved. ___________________________________________________________________________. Since glaciers are melting, the habitat of polar bears, walruses, arctic foxes, and other arctic animals are being destroyed, leading to theses animals’ extinction. So, one of the fairly universal responses to warming that we observe is a shift, an upward shift, in the limit of treeline, the altitudinal limit of treeline and shrub line and Tundra. As the world warms, many species will once again be forced to flee, says Scott Loarie, a biogeographer at the Carnegie Institution for Science at Stanford University in Palo Alto, California, who coauthored the 2009 study. The plankton example that we were talking about a bit earlier, that study was over 120 years. But we also talk about climate, and we talk about the role of glaciers as water towers. So, we can do something like create a biodiversity intactness index. And that has huge impacts on water that feeds the largest rivers in the world. How fast species need to move may depend on how hilly their homes are, Sandel suggests. 5.2 What will be the impact on marine fisheries? Certain birds also rely on fish that are found in freshly melting glaciers. But scientists should use caution when applying the fates of animals during the Ice Age to the modern era, says Robert Colwell, a biogeographer at the University of Connecticut, Storrs. Take the American pika, which lives along mountains in the western United States: To get to cooler weather, all these squeaky critters need to do is climb a few hundred meters uphill. The team's data may be off, but "the qualitative result is likely going to hold up," Colwell says. There’s other things besides climate change, but climate change tends to exacerbate all of those other factors. So, that’s outside of the entire time that our genus has been on the planet, and for many other species, while they might’ve been around for a long period of time, they’ve slowly–over the last millions or hundreds of thousands of years–adapted to a set of conditions that are typical of what we see now. Check out the effects of melting glaciers … We tend to think of natural places, and mountains in particular, as very interdisciplinary environments. Glacial melting leads to a rise in sea levels, which gives land animals less land to live on.
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