Effects on Wildlife and Habitat

Our country is home to a diverse array of wildlife ranging from the highest peaks, to the driest deserts, to freshwater and marine environments and to all the places in between. The abundant and diverse wildlife resources, which are so important to our culture and well-being, face a bleak future if we do not address global warming.

Featured Species:

Polar bear family

Polar Bears

Polar bears rely heavily on Arctic sea ice, which is rapidly disappearing due to global warming. In Hudson Bay, polar bears are starving during the long summer months as the ice they rely on to hunt for food melts earlier each spring and later in the fall. Learn more >>



The American pika, a small mammal that lives on Western mountaintops, is being forced to move to higher and higher altitudes to find the tolerable alpine temperatures it calls home. As global warming increases average temperatures, the pika may soon run out of places to go. Learn more >>

Wood Duck


Ducks, geese and other waterfowl across the country are changing behaviors and migration patterns and suffering the consequences of more extreme weather, including drought and floods. This not only threatens the birds themselves, but has greatly impacted the hunting businesses that depend on ducks showing up for duck season. Learn more >>


Ringed Seals| Coldwater Fish | SalmonCoral ReefsEastern Hemlock ForestsEstuaries and Coastal WetlandsGreat LakesMangrovesPrairie PotholesSagebrush SteppeSouthwestern StreamsWestern ForestsSouthern Forests | Invasive Species

Wildlife depends on healthy habitats. They need:

  • The right temperatures
  • Fresh water
  • Food sources
  • Places to raise their young

Climate change is altering key habitat elements that are critical to wildlife's survival and putting natural resources in jeopardy.



  • Larger floods are expected to increase erosion levels, reducing water quality and degrading aquatic habitat.
  • Severe droughts stress and can kill plants on which wildlife depend for food and shelter, and deprives wildlife of water sources.


  • Climate change has altered food availability for migratory species; birds arrive on schedule to find their food sources--insects, seeds, flowering plants--have hatched or bloomed too early or not at all.
  • Milder winters cause seasonal food caches to spoil, so wildlife species like the Gray Jay depending on food stores to survive the winter are left without sustenance.


  • Droughts caused by global warming could dry up 90 percent of central U.S. wetlands, eliminating essential breeding habitat for ducks, geese and other migratory species.
  • Rising sea level and changes in salinity could decimate mangrove forests, leaving many fish, shellfish, and other wildlife without a place to breed, feed or raise offspring.

Often overlooked, just as important as the many ways in which our climate is changing, is that it is changing so fast and thus the need to address global warming. Species may not be able to adapt to this rapid climate change or to move fast enough to more suitable areas as their current areas become less suitable for them. Unless significant action is taken now, global warming will likely become the single most important factor to affect wildlife since the emergence of mankind.

Wildlife and Climate Change Factsheets

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