Endangered Habitats

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The Independent Online
WHAT IS happening to the Costa Rican cloud forests is a significant early warning: a very vulnerable ecosystem is starting to be seriously damaged by global warming, perhaps beyond repair.

But the process is not unique; it can be seen happening with other - and very varied - habitats.

The Arctic: The edge of the Arctic Ocean ice, which in summer has been fairly near the northern shores of Alaska and Siberia, is retreating farther away as it melts in warmer water.

This means that the ice-edge is now over much deeper water, and walruses, which use the ice-edge to have their pups, are no longer able to dive for the shellfish on which they feed, while polar bears are getting stranded on land and are unable to find their own food, ringed seals.

Last summer, a Greenpeace expedition found the ice-edge had retreated 150 miles from the Alaskan shoreline. "The Arctic wildlife is going to be in deep trouble because of this," said Steve Sawyer, co-ordinator of Greenpeace's arctic project.

Coral Reefs: Coral animals in their tropical reefs live at the edge of the temperature which they can support. Last year, the hottest in the global record, saw sea surface temperatures of up to 2.5C above normal. Large swaths of coral died as a result. Destruction of the world's coral reefs would be a huge blow to fishing, to tourism and to marine wildlife.