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Ocean acidification has been linked to the disturbance of food webs and changing species distributions. Together with other biogeochemical changes, increasing ocean acidification may compromise the health of marine ecosystems as well as negatively impact many ocean goods and services and the communities that rely on them.
In a warming climate, more precipitation will be expected to fall as rain rather than snow in most areas—reducing the extent and depth of snowpack. Changes in mountain snowpack can affect agriculture, winter recreation, and tourism in some areas, as well as plants and wildlife.
Key changes to ocean systems include acidification, rising sea levels, and strengthening storms. Impacts to ocean habitats are detailed in the discussion of coral bleaching and reef degradation in the species and habitats section.
Temperatures are rising. Climate change has already increased average temperatures enough to shift seasons — spring comes earlier and fall frosts arrive later. These shifts in seasons compel some species to migrate farther north or to higher elevations. Trends indicating more extreme temperatures have been observed in both air temperatures and water temperatures.
Climate change impacts to grasslands and prairies include increased seasonal, annual, minimum, and maximum temperature and changing precipitation patterns. Because these ecosystems are relatively dry with a strong seasonal climate, they are sensitive to climatic changes and vulnerable to shifts in climatic regime.
The warmer air and ocean surface temperatures brought on by climate change impact corals and alter coral reef communities by prompting coral bleaching events and altering ocean chemistry. These impacts affect corals and the many organisms that use coral reefs as habitat. Reef degradation also reduces the ability of these systems to respond to change and mitigate storm surge events – a valuable ecosystem service.
Modern climate change is already changing many aspects of our environment — warmer temperatures, more frequent droughts, rising sea levels — and is expected to impact the planet for centuries. While there is still potential to reduce the extent of climate change through mitigation efforts, since we cannot stop climate change in the near-term, we must plan for climate change impacts today and into the future.
As average air temperatures rise, so do the average water temperatures of our oceans, lakes and rivers, affecting ecosystems and species that depend on them.
Because spring is arriving earlier, snow packs are also melting earlier. This means that many streams and rivers are reaching their peak flows earlier in the season, which, coupled with increasing numbers of high flow days, can present greater flood risks.
Rising temperatures, changing precipitation patterns and shifts in vegetation communities are changing the effective range and distribution of many native and agricultural species. These habitat shifts impact species and ecosystems.