Climate Change and its Effect on Biodiversity
My! … That’s a big one!
Well, the name “Climate Change” speaks for itself. There’s no mistaking that title. But what of “Bio-diversity”? Life-diversity = Diverse life. What is that in regards to where we live and how will it be affected with slow or dramatic alteration?
Years ago, we purchased a bush block out there near Yookamurra Sanctuary. Some of it was regrowth, but there were stands of original mallee forest. After we purchased it we went for an “explore”. We walked down a track, on one side the evidence of regrowth, with its scattering of jagged limestone clusters on account of the clearing, on the other much more dense and uniform mallee trees with the burnished silvered leaf-litter spread away uniformly under the trees.
Something caught my eye and I turned off the track onto the leaf-litter. I had only gone about five steps in when I became aware of walking on a deep, soft bed of what must be undisturbed litter. Self-consciously, I back-tracked to the hard ground and looked where I had stepped.
My footprints had left an indelible impression on the litter, so soft and brittley fragile was the organic makeup. On close examination I could see the structure and substance of that delicate fabric spread wide over the forest floor. While the ground at my feet was dry and hard, the soil under the litter was moist, easily friable and composed of numerous tiny and minute insects feeding, no doubt, on many more decomposing insect, leaf-matter and fungi etc. Truly, the whole intricate composition of that sub-environment and the intertwined relationship with the insect kingdom had to be acknowledged as a natural work of art!
I stood up and stepped back to see the picture as a whole.
There above was the cloudy sky, then the mallee canopy down, down the silky branches to the scaly trunk and knobbly bole to the multilayered litter there on the forest floor. Each part there named adhered by an invisible tendon to the next and , as if in contractual agreement, one supplying the other with the necessities of life itself..take one away and break the link, the next will surely falter and, eventually, fail.
So that is what climate change most probably will do to such a specialised, interlinked environment. Especially now that it is already far stretched by the culled resources and erratic weather conditions experienced in the mallee.
That huge typhoon (read; cyclone) in the Philippines a couple of years ago; “Typhoon Haiyan”, gives cause for us to reflect how dangerous the weather has become. I will not debate here the ludicrous denial of climate change connection that is “fiddling while Rome burns”. We have a more pressing concern: What are we to do in the event of such a serious weather event in our district?
While I’d admit the likelihood of a typhoon striking the Murray-Mallee is remote, other storms and heatwaves most certainly will … and if we trust the science (as we do in a multitude of other categories), such storms and heatwaves may increase in size and intensity.
That death toll in the Philippines shows that regardless of preparation, the sheer depth and ferocity of the storm was underestimated. It is always too late once the disaster has hit! … I have worked in locations where the temperature can go to over 50 degrees … nothing of consequence functions for long above ground at that temperature! … here, in the mallee, we have come close to and in some places exceeded that temperature. If it was to become a regular thing over summer, it will be catastrophic for the very young and the aged. It is time we admitted, both to ourselves and to the world out there that we humans are completely and totally at the mercy of the natural environment … and we can no longer afford to ride roughshod over its existence.
We have said all that we can say in defence of sustainability, we have lamented all we can lament on environmental destruction … it is time now to act. We count on the government to implement policies that reflect concern on a global scale, while we implement actions on a local plan. We need our local government to design and deliver to the community a plan, a timetable and a costing drawn up and printed out on display in every town in the local council areas, showing step by step procedures to respond to dangerous weather systems.
The cruel visuals of the suffering and the dead of those people of the Philippines shows it is too late and too useless to have wisdom in hindsight … and I doubt among those throngs of injured, hungry, thirsty, homeless masses, there were too many of the wealthy and well-connected persons … they would’ve been long-gone before the typhoon hit! We have been warned with that tragedy and others … there is no doubt ferocious storms and severe drought will come our way … the last decade has been the hottest on record … the rising intensity of the storms and temperatures are what the science said they would be … all very well to wish it would go away … don’t we all wish such things would. But it isn’t, it won’t and it is here, it is now and it will only, with time get worse.
We have reached that ‘blind Freddy” moment where we have to concede that we, as mammalian species, are completely and totally at the mercy of the environment! We must acknowledge it … respect it!
Let us consider the poetical metaphor effect first promulgated by Edward Lorenz … that the infinitesimal movement of air from the flapping of a butterfly’s wing may create a “ripple effect” much like a pebble dropped into a pond, whose link doth cause a hurricane a thousand miles away. We need to “see” the biodiversity in the environment as a poet “sees” life in the stanzas he composes, and then indeed, will we be mesmerised by nature’s song!