Leatherback Sea TurtleLatin name: Dermochelys Coriacea,
Conservsation status: vulnerable (population is decreasing)
The largest of all sea turtles, the Leatherback has been on Earth since the dinosaurs—100 million years. It can grow over six feet long, weigh up to one ton, and dive over 3,000 feet—deeper than any other turtle.
Climate change impacts the Leatherback in two main ways: an increase in the temperature of nesting sands causes a greater proportion of females to hatch, destabilizing future populations; and sea level rise and stronger, more frequent storms erode nesting beaches and wash away eggs and hatchlings. The Leatherback is also threatened from fisheries by-catch, egg collection, coastal development, pollution and ingestion of floating plastics.
Other animals at risk
All populations of Ringed Seals are expected to be adversely affected by climate change because of dependence on sea ice and snow dens for breeding, protecting pups, moulting and resting. Early warming causes pups to separate prematurely from their mothers. As sea ice declines, other threats are fisheries by-catch, increased shipping, tourism and development. Seals are vulnerable to disease from heavy concentrations of pollutants that have accumulated in the Arctic food web.
The Shenandoah Salamander lives in an isolated, high altitude region of Shenandoah National Park, USA. Like all amphibians who have thin, permeable skin, salamanders are very sensitive to environmental changes. If average temperatures or moisture increase, this salamander, restricted to its cool micro-climate, will be at risk—having no place to go but to lower, even warmer, altitudes. If warming causes other species of lower altitude salamanders to migrate higher, they will compete for the Shenandoah's cool, moist habitats.
The Narwhal lives mainly in the Atlantic Arctic. Because of specialized habitat, narrow range and limited diet (Arctic cod and halibut), it is one of the Arctic species most vulnerable to climate change. The Narwhal breeds in bays and fjords, moving offshore during winter to areas of heavy ice pack, breathing through the few cracks. Sudden or extreme temperature change can cause these cracks to freeze shut, trapping the whales. Other threats are illegal hunting, industrial activities, and risks from oil development, exploration and shipping in the Arctic.
In the last 30 years the Staghorn Coral population has decreased by 80% from disease, pollution, development and damage. Climate change is increasing the risk of extinction. Corals live in symbiotic (mutually beneficial) relation with algae. The coral receives nutrients and oxygen from algae, and the algae receive nutrients and carbon dioxide from the coral. Rising sea temperature increases algae growth so oxygen levels become too high for the coral, causing "bleaching"—the coral expels the algae and dies. Higher ocean acidity contributes to bleaching and also reduces the ability of corals and other marine animals to build hard shells. Other threats from climate change are sea level rise, changes in currents and storm damage.