How is climate change affecting the world’s wildlife?

Scientists predict that climate change is set to become one of the biggest threats to the world’s wildlife, driving the extinction of many plant and animal species.

Rising sea levels can lead to loss of habitat for some species, whilst others may struggle to adapt to the increasing acidity and temperature of the oceans.

Increased occurrences of droughts and other extreme weather conditions will also put species at risk.

Follow the links below to find out more about species which may be at risk from the effects of climate change and what we're doing to help…



TurtlesRising sea levels and intense storms could wash away nesting beaches.

In turtles the gender of the offspring is determined by temperature, with more females hatching from a warmer nest. A rise in temperature could upset the balance of male and female turtles.

Loss of reefs due to coral bleaching will also impact on their food source and habitat. Rising sea levels and more intense storms could wash away turtle nesting beaches.


Emperor Penguins

These may be the world’s largest species of penguin but they are not immune to the effects of climate change. In the past where sea ice has shrunk, the number of Emperor Penguins has dropped. Emporer Penguin

Scientists think that these penguins may be especially sensitive to shifting ocean temperatures caused by climate change.

Loss of sea-ice means the loss of large areas of Emperor Penguin breeding sites and increased vulnerability of chicks to predators.



The two species of orangutan, Bornean and Sumatran, are both classified as critically endangered. Their greatest threat is loss of habitat to make way for oil palm plantations, used in the production of the edible palm oil.

OrangutanUnusual rainfall patterns in Borneo and Sumatra result in poor fruiting seasons and lead to food shortages for orangutans. In 2007, 1000 of the remaining 40,000 orang-utans were killed in uncontrolled bush fires caused by drought conditions in their forest habitats.

These events could become more common in future as a result of climate change.

Tropical rainforests absorb nearly a fifth of all man-made CO2 emissions around the world so they have a huge role in reducing the effects of climate change. They also help cool the earth’s surface by enhancing evaporation and cloud cover.

However, an area of tropical rainforest the size of a football pitch is currently destroyed every four seconds.

Ironically, when the rainforests are burnt down all their stored CO2 is released back into the atmosphere. Globally, deforestation is responsible for more CO2 emissions than various modes of transport are.

Find out how we Act for Wildlife and support orangutan conservation in the wild.


Coral reefs

Coral reefs are biodiversity hotspots and are home to a huge variety of species worldwide. They also act as natural barriers providing protection for coastal habitats.

Colourful coral indicates a healthy reef but warming seas can result in bleaching, leaving only white coral skeletons which can be fatal. Rising sea levels may also have an affect on coral growth and increased frequency of severe storms can damage the reefs.

Coral Reefs



Increased storm intensity, coral bleaching and ocean acidity associated with climate change all affect the coral habitat of the clownfish. Clownfish

Clownfish navigate their way around coral reefs by detecting chemical signals in the water.

However, the increase in ocean acidity associated with climate change makes it harder for the fish to locate anemones where they can hide. If they stay away from the anemone for too long they can lose their immunity to its poison.

Clownfish can only reproduce within a narrow temperature range. In high temperatures the eggs can perish and development of the young fish is disrupted.


Polar Bears

Polar BearPolar Bears ambush seals from the edge of ice sheets so they are reliant on Arctic sea ice to hunt prey and raise their young.

When the ice melts Polar bears must swim much further to find food and some drown before they find it.

If sea ice continues to melt earlier and form later each year the bears struggle to find food at a critical time of the year and reduce their chances of breeding and surviving.


Red-breasted Goose

European birds may be forced to shift their breeding grounds by around 250 km north-east because of climate change.

The trouble is although birds can fly to avoid changing temperatures and weather patterns, it takes time for suitable breeding habitat and food availability to develop and many bird species may struggle to survive.


Black Rhino

RhinoIn 2009 Kenya suffered severe droughts. Farmers lost 80% of their cattle and native wildlife, including the Black Rhino, were severely affected.

There was an increase in poaching of rhinos for horn as local people struggled to survive. Droughts like this could become more widespread and common with the onset of climate change...

Click here to find out how we support Rhino conservation in the wild.



AmphibiansAmphibians include frogs and toads, salamanders and newts and the strange worm-like caecilians but are sadly the most endangered of all vertebrates.

In addition to pollution and loss of habitat the spread of chytrid fungus is a major threat to amphibians worldwide.

Amphibians are sensitive to changes in their environment so are likely to be affected by changes in rainfall and temperature associated with climate change.