Ten Climate Change "Flagship" Species Named

Christine Dell'Amore in Copenhagen
National Geographic News
December 14, 2009

Starving koalas and homeless clownfish are among ten species likely to suffer huge losses due to global warming, according to a report released today at the Copenhagen climate change conference by the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN).

Although the ten species aren't those most at risk, IUCN selected them because they are well-researched "flagship" species that are being affected by a spectrum of climate change impacts, from melting sea ice to beach erosion.

(See pictures of the ten IUCN "flagship" species, and related pictures of ten U.S. species feeling global warming's heat.)

"The polar bear has become an icon of climate change, and it's doing a fabulous job," report co-author Wendy Foden of IUCN's Species Programme said by phone in Copenhagen.

But "there are other species too [that] help to highlight what climate change is doing."

Sea Turtle Gender Bending

Many of the animals featured in the new report already appear on IUCN's Red List of Threatened Species for other reasons, such as habitat destruction and overharvesting. This makes climate change an "additional and major threat," the report authors say.

For instance, critically endangered leatherback sea turtles are already at risk of becoming entangled in fishing nets or choking on plastic debris in the ocean.

In a warmer world, the sea turtles must also try to nest on beaches severely eroded by extreme storms, which have been linked to rising sea-surface temperatures.

See video portraits of the ten IUCN "flagship" species.

In addition, a hatchling turtle's gender is determined by the average temperature during the egg's development—and hotter sand is spawning a disproportionately high number of females.

(Related: "Warming May Drive Gender-Bending Reptiles Extinct, Scientists Say.")

Continued on Next Page >>




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