Around 90% of animal species that call Iceland and the surrounding waters home will disappear in the next 50 years due to climate change, Vísir reports. While some will move further north or south, others will die out.
According to a recent report by leading scientists carried out for the United Nations, the world’s ecosystems are declining at an alarming rate, putting around one million species at risk of extinction. Iceland is no exception to this gloomy outlook, which scientists say can improve if large changes are implemented.
Director of Icelandic environmental research and consulting company RORUM says the report’s estimate is conservative. “There will be tremendous changes over the coming decades and I think that no one can imagine them. Maybe no one wants to imagine them,” says Þorleifur Eiríksson, who is also a zoologist.
Iceland already seeing changes
Þorleifur says climate change will have a huge impact on animals living in Iceland or in the surrounding ocean. Warming seas are already causing some local animal populations to plummet in numbers or move to other regions. “The thick-billed murre is disappearing and will go north. The guillemot will probably do that soon as well. The puffin population has as we know absolutely plummeted because the sandeel has disappeared,” he stated.
Some of the effects of climate change, such as ocean acidification, may become apparent in Iceland before other places. Ocean acidification is expected to cause shellfish populations to decline dramatically around the country, affecting fish stocks that are crucial to the Icelandic economy.
“It’s not just that these species disappear,” Þorleifur explains. “They are a natural part of a very complex food chain. Haddock, for example, feeds mostly on shellfish, there will probably be a huge drop in those stocks and then just a chain reaction.”