A3.7.2.2 WWF Concerns


The WWF state that very few species or habitats will be completely immune to climate change. Some may be adaptable, but others are very specialised in how or where they exist, which puts them at particular risk. Global warming is likely to be a major cause of species extinctions this century. The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change says a 2-3°C average rise may put 20-30% of species at risk. If the planet warms more than 3°C, most ecosystems will struggle.

Some key impacts of Climate Change of concern to the WWF are:



Most people know how important forests are – they soak up carbon dioxide (particularly crucial at the moment) and help regulate the global climate. They also tend to be particularly rich in plant and animal species.

When large areas of forest are destroyed – whether razed for commercial reasons or dried by a warming climate – it’s not only bad for the local species and communities that rely on them, it’s disastrous for life on Earth as we know it. Dying trees emit their stores of CO2, adding to atmospheric greenhouse gases, and setting us on a course for runaway global warming.

Forest and vegetation loss can also cause soil erosion, landslides in mountainous areas and loss of agricultural land. Impacts vary in different kinds of forests. Sub-Arctic boreal forests are likely to be particularly badly affected, with tree lines gradually retreating north as temperatures rise.

Temperate forests are perhaps less at risk, although in southern regions they’re likely to be more vulnerable to fire and pests.

In tropical forests like the Amazon, where there’s abundant biodiversity, even modest levels of climate change can cause high levels of extinction. The other complication is that tropical forests are often in countries where there’s less access to information, technology and financial resources.



Rivers and lakes supply drinking water for people and animals, as well as being vital for agriculture and industry. Oceans and seas provide food for billions of people. Climate change will have major and unpredictable effects on the world’s water systems, including more floods and droughts…

Freshwater environments around the world are already under excessive pressure from drainage, dredging, damming, pollution, extraction, silting and invasive species. Climate change inter-relates with these other stresses, making impacts worse, but also causing new threats because of changing rainfall and evaporation patterns. Extremes of drought and flooding will become more common, causing displacement and conflict.

In mountainous regions, glacial melt is having a big impact on freshwater ecosystems. Himalayan glaciers – giant rivers of ice that contain the largest store of fresh water outside of the poles – feed great Asian rivers like the Yangtze, Yellow, Ganges, Mekong and Indus. Over a billion people rely on these glaciers for drinking water, sanitation, agriculture and hydroelectric power.

Widespread floods, as the glaciers melt, will be followed by long-term water shortages, and massive humanitarian, social and environmental problems in western China, Nepal and northern India. Less fresh water means less agriculture, food and income.

Species are affected too: the Ganges river dolphin – which lives in the river systems of Nepal, India and Bangladesh – is very vulnerable to changes in its limited habitat. Increases in water temperatures may dramatically affect fish populations that are the dolphins’ food source.

The river-dwelling gharial – a critically endangered crocodile-like reptile found mostly in India and Nepal – is under threat from the growing number of irrigation schemes cropping up along rivers in the wake of increased drought conditions. 

Here in the UK, several of the iconic chalk streams of southern England are drying up – not just a worry for local wildlife and landscapes, but a serious risk to water supplies for some large communities.