Staghorn CoralLatin name: Acropora Cervicornis,
Conservsation status: critically endangered (population is stable)
Coral reefs are the most diverse ecosystems in the marine world and can take 10,000 years to form. They cover less than 1% of the ocean floor but are habitat for at least 25% of all known marine life. A coral is made up of thousands of tiny animals called polyps, protected by a hard skeleton. There are 160 different species of Staghorn Coral.
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.
Other animals at risk
Koalas live in the woodlands of Australia. Thick fur and skin make it difficult for them to adapt to rising temperatures. Increased CO2 in the air produces less protein in the eucalyptus leaves, forcing the Koala to search for other sources of food and, in times of high heat, water. On the ground, the slow moving Koalas are prey to wild dingoes and domestic dogs, or are hit by cars as they cross roads. Their habitats are also being destroyed by drought, bush fires and development.
Before 1800 there were an estimated 10–20,000 Whooping Cranes in North America. By 1941, because of hunting and habitat destruction, there were fewer than 20. There are now approximately 350–380 in the wild. The wild Whooping Crane population has only one winter habitat—a wildlife refuge on the Gulf Coast in Texas; and one spring breeding habitat—a prairie wetlands in Alberta. Severe storms, sea level rise, drought, industrial development and oil spills threaten these habitats. Another significant threat to young Whooping Cranes is colliding with power lines in their migration corridor.
Belugas live in Arctic and Sub-Arctic waters. Impacts from climate change include: an increase in ship traffic as sea ice declines, oil exploration and extraction, fisheries by-catch, and disruption of the food web. As Arctic waters warm and currents change, the Humpback (a competitor) and the Orca (a predator) may move north and stay longer. Some Beluga populations are also threatened by hunting, pollution and habitat loss.
In 50 years, the mean temperature of western Antarctica has risen nearly 3 °C—more than any other region—reducing the extent and thickness of winter ice. The Emperor Penguin is dependent on the ice for breeding, raising chicks and moulting. Less sea ice decreases zooplankton (krill) which feed on algae that grow on the underside of the ice. Krill are an important part of the food web for the Emperor and other Antarctic marine species.