Climate Change Emerge as a threat for Species in National RedList 2012


Sri Lanka has permanently lost 19 amphibian species and five flowering plants. Climate Change emerges as a factor that would threaten Sri Lanka’s Biodiversiy – Malaka Rodrigo reviews the National Red List 2012 

Do a search on the freshly launched National RedList 2o12. You will notice that Climate Change emerged as a new threat among other traditional threats such as habitat loss, pollution or over-exploitation. Here is how National Red List 2012 evaluate Climate Change as a threat.

Arjan Rajasuriya who has written the chapter of Corals of National RedList 2012 recognizes Climate Change as the major threat for Corals. “The major widespread threat to corals is from climate change. In 1998 large extents of shallow water corals became bleached and many reefs were damaged extensively. Their recovery is variable and even within a single reef area such as the Bar Reef individual patch reefs has shown different levels of recovery”. The researcher also points out that Coral bleaching with some regularity has been observed recently, especially on reefs in the east and north. In 2010 there was severe bleaching of the coral reefs in the Pigeon Island National Park and Dutch Bay in Trincomalee. These reefs are heavily degraded and have not shown good signs of recovery. The increase of atmospheric temperature during a drought is believed to be the cause of these localized bleaching.

Freshwater Crabs records the highest Endemism for Sri Lankan wildlife where 50 out of total 51 known species of Fresh water crabs are Endemic to Sri Lanka. Mohamed Bahir and Dinesh Gabadage who study these Freshwater crabs say local climate change joins the other threats such as influx of fertilizer and pesticides, rainwater acidification and increased erosion leading to sedimentation of water bodies can be sited as other major threats on the habitats of the freshwater crabs. The sedimentation threat can also be aggravated by Climate Change as it is expected to bring more extreme rainfall that leads to create runoff water bringing more sediments to natural waterways.

Discussing about the threatened status of Amphibians;  Kelum Manamendra-Arachchi and Dr.Madhava Meegaskumbura stresses the need of science-based conservation that seeks to address threats such as environmental pollution, climate changes and habitat degradation. We have permanently lost 19 amphibian species, all native to Sri Lanka, as confirmed by the National Red List of Conservation Status of Flora and Fauna of Sri Lanka 2012. The list, announced last week, notes that apart from the 19 amphibians that have gone extinct, two fish species, one reptile species and yet another amphibian species are labelled “possibly extinct” at the national level. So the scientists calls the need of more research to asses the true situation as Climate Change could be definitely a game changer for Amphibians.

Dragonfly experts Dr.Nancy van der Poorten and Karen Conniff sees their evaluation differently. “Dragonflies are also used to monitor the effects of climate change” they penned down. The life of dragonfly revolves around water where eggs are laid in water; the larva spends its life in water feeding on aquatic prey; and adults usually court and mate near the oviposition site. Because of this intimate connection to water. Climate Change will have a direct impact with rainfall patterns and hence water. So these experts point out Dragonflies can be used as indicators to monitor the effects of climate change.

RedList graphicThe Red List highlights that Sri Lanka permanent loss of five flowering plants, and fear for the 177 plants listed as “possibly extinct”. R.H.G. Ranil and D.K.N.G. Pushpakumara of University of Peradeniya stresses climate change further worsen the situation particularly for Pteridophyte plants like Ferns that are really depend on  moisture.

Talking about the Mangroves, Prof. L.P.Jayatissa of University of Ruhuna says although much has been learned from them, significant gaps still exist in our understanding of the ecology of these systems, and particularly, of the likely effects of climate change for Mangroves. Prof.Jayatissa further stresses that if the impacts of climate-change will not be considered now, the efforts on mangrove protection and conservation may just be wasted in the long-run. He recommends to continue the studies on mangroves aiming protection, conservation and sustainable use, with particular emphasis on likely impacts of climate change.

Talking about Orchids, Dr.Suranjan Fernando advocates studies on effects of climate change and environmental sensitivity on native orchids are also needed.

Dr.Terney Pradeep on conservation of marine fish highlights climate change and related ocean acidification and sea level rise could further threaten the marine fish species.

The Red List 2012 evaluated a total of 2,264 faunal (animal) species, including 936 endemics, and 3,492 floral (plant) species, including seed- producing plants (gymnosperms) and ferns; 943 species are endemic. Scientific data on many animal groups is lacking, and this is a big drawback in evaluating their conservation status, specially on the impacts of new emerging threats such as Climate Change said Sri Lanka Red List fauna coordinator Professor Devaka Weerakoon.

Doona ovalifolia – Pini Beraliya is ‘Extinct in Wild’

Some plants, such as the Alphonsea hortensis and Doona ovalifolia, are found only in the Botanical Gardens; so they are categorized “Extinct in the Wild”.  National Red List flora coordinator Dr. Siril Wijesundara told the Sunday Times that more than 3,000 plants were evaluated for the 2012 list, about 1,000 more than in 2007.

Let’s all wish the Climate Change will not hit us as badly as predicted, because some of the mass extinctions in the history was triggered by Climate Change.

Published on SundayTimes on 23.12.2012

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