How Does Climate Change Affect Habitat Loss?

How does climate change affect habitat loss?

Climate change interacts with habitat loss, by impeding species’ ability to adapt, and by bringing dispersing wildlife into conflict with humans.

Habitat loss and climate change each cause negative impacts on biodiversity; however, these threats also interact to have an overall larger negative impact than the sum of these threats independently. Prominently, because of habitat loss, many species will be unable to adequately adjust their ranges to keep track of their shifting climatic

For example, some species might not be able to adapt to their ranges because suitable habitats in their future
ranges will be destroyed by human activity. Range-shift gaps describe a habitat gap that prevents a species from dispersing from its current to future ranges.

These gaps, which may occur naturally or because of habitat fragmentation, may also impede range adjustments under climate change. While the impact of range-shift gaps is an active area of research, it is expected that mountain-top species may be inherently vulnerable to range-shift gaps, particularly if they are unable to first disperse downslope before they can reach climatically suitable locations at higher elevations elsewhere.

For example, over 60% of herbaceous plants living in Ethiopia’s Arsi Mountains might face range-shift gaps soon. But even highly mobile species might be vulnerable, with many African birds expected to face range-shift gaps as they adjust their ranges.

Habitat loss and climate change are also expected to exacerbate human-wildlife conflicts. Sub-Saharan Africa will face losses of up to 2.5 million km2 in arable land between 2010 and 2100. These losses will see even more natural ecosystems converted for agriculture which, in turn, will further increase competition among and between humans and wildlife for resources such as food, water, and suitable habitat.

As the human footprint expands across Earth, agriculture and infrastructure will impede the ability of specialist species to find food and adapt to changing conditions, while generalist species will be forced into agricultural lands and nearby human habitation as they search for resources and/or disperse across the landscape.

Such a scenario will likely exacerbate human-wildlife conflict in areas like Kenya’s Amboseli region, where lions living in fragmented ecosystems with diminishing natural prey populations are increasingly prone to wandering beyond protected area boundaries into ranching areas in search of food.

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