Sea level rise caused by global warming can prove extremely destructive to island habitats, which hold about 20% of the world’s biodiversity. Research by C. Bellard, C. Leclerc and F. Courchamp of the University of Paris Sud look at 3 possible scenarios, from optimistic to very pessimistic, to bring attention to the dangers in store for some of the richest biodiversity hotspots worldwide. The study was published in the open access journal Nature Conservation.
Despite climate change having received considerable attention in recent years, no global assessment of the consequences of sea rising is available for island ecosystems. Yet those are amongst the regions most vulnerable to potential sea level rise, which in their case would cause a direct reduction of habitat.
Several recent studies strongly suggest that sea levels will rise substantially until the end of the century, with estimates ranging from 0.5 m to 2.3 m increase. Worst case scenarios of ice sheet melting and sliding lead to estimates of sea-level rise of the worrying 4 to 6 m. Such increases could lead to the immersion of very large proportions of many islands with low elevation. In many cases, sea level rise may lead to their total submersion, wiping out completely self-contained ecosystems and their inhabitants .