Effects of global warming on Sri Lanka


Sri Lanka hosts the most diverse endemic species and is considered to be a biodiversity hot spot (Meegaskumbura, 2002). Sri Lanka is place for several endemic terrestrial species such as amphibians and birds, but also a declining marine ecosystem: with ongoing threats to the coastal coral reef environments. As climate change occurs, Sri Lanka will undergo widespread effects of climate change including climate variability and sea-level rise, directly affecting the overall abundance and security of endemic species within Sri Lanka (Mendelsohn, 2005). Being an island of 65,610 sq.km., climate change will drastically alter the climate conditions of Sri Lanka, equator (Wanasundera, N. P. (2002). Sri Lanka’s location in close proximity to the Equator is extremely imperative in understanding the severity of climate change. Countries located near the equator, receive additional direct sunlight with less area to heat up, causing temperatures in this region to be much warmer than say the North or South poles, and example can be seen in figure 2 (Climate change (n.d.). In 2011, the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) prediction models show an increasing trend of temperature. The actual degree amount is very tough to pinpoint, however there are several variables that are included in each of the models; including the extent of global population growth, the development in all countries both economically and socially and the overall use of energy. Figure 3 shows the three models that the IPCC have made depicting their projections for the future. The yellow line has the most drastic change in temperature which is based on the continual use of fossil fuels. on and economic state of the country, however includes possible alternative fuel sources and technologies. The green line is the lowest, focusing on transferring our economy from a producer-consumer to a service and information economy. Also using clean and efficiency fuel technologies (Climate Change Models Predict the Future. (n.d.). The importance for awareness through climate change education and local and global policy changes in the utmost important in controlling and offsetting CO2 emissions so tropical islands located near the equator will not be as drastically affected. There are several species that will be affected from climate change including many birds’ species.


An array of twenty-six endemic bird species live in Sri Lanka’s wet zone of the southwestern part of the island. All together, the county has more than 400 bird species, from waterfowl to many migratory birds (Endemic Birds of Sri Lanka). Bird species of Sri Lanka are drastically being indirectly being affected by climate change with increased droughts, prolonged series of intense precipitation and sea-level rise, which ultimately declining these bird’s habitats and range through increased human interaction and a lack of corridors. To clarify the threats that are typically faced by endemic bird species in Sri Lanka, the following case is presented to better understand the detrimental affected of climate change, the Green-Billed Coucal. (Sri Lanka Is a Birds Paradise with over 250 Resident Species). Green-Billed Coucal Centropus chlororhynchus:

Green-Billed Coucal

The Green-Billed Coucal thrives in the southwest region of the countries wet zone forest (seen in figure 6). This bird species is medium-large in size with a mainly blackish brown body and its distinctive green beak. In 2010, this particular bird species was placed on the IUCN red list as a vulnurable species mainly due to woodland environmental destruction. In addition to a prime habitat for the Coucal, the forests contain large trees, shrubs, and bushes which are being over-exploited by humans (Bharathie, K.P). Although the many habitats of the Green-billed Coucal are protected, its primary habitat and breeding grounds are threatened by continued clear-cutting and over-exploitation (BirdLife International (2011) Species factsheet.


In addition to many bird species, Sri Lanka also hosts 105 amphibian species, 85% of which are endemic. Severe weather has been a huge predicament for amphibians in the southwestern part of the island, prolonged droughts and periods of increase intense precipitation has also created a decline in the overall number of species. According to the IUCN Red List for threatened species, which accurately shows 34% of the amphibians in Sri Lanka are endangered and 22 species are already extinct. The following is a case study of the Agra Bubble-nest Frog Pseudophilautus silus in Sri Lanka (The State of Amphibians in Sri Lanka). Agra Bubble-nest Frog Pseudophilautus silus Also the animals are endangered.

Bubble-nest frog

The Bubble-nest frog is listed as endangered under the IUCN red list. There are declining populations, with last count around 1,500 located in the southern canopy covered forests. This particular frog species lives on the ground or on low branches near water sources, however is not dependent on these water sources. The main threat to this frog species is through habitat loss from human interaction and overexploitation of the dense forests, similar to that of the Green-billed Coucal. Severe weather also plays a huge role in the frogs decreasing numbers, flooding due to increased participation may alter the breeding habitat and cause this species to relocate. Also, as sea-level continues to rise; human settlement will move inward, invading the natural habitat and mating rage of the Bubble-nest frog (Kelum Manamendra-Arachchi, Rohan Pethiyagoda 2004).

Coral Reefs

Sri Lanka’s Coral Reefs Climate change affects much of the terrestrial part of Sri Lanka, but it can also have even more dramatic impacts on biodiversity offshore. Coral reefs provide pleasing scuba adventures, but more importantly supports an abundant diversity of other species, of local fisheries, and as buffering to the coast against storms. Coral reefs provide many benefits for both island communities and underwater communities including many ecosystem services such as water filtration, but they also foster many interactions between sea life, providing shelter and food. Many of the people of Sri Lanka live on the coasts all around the island and mainly rely on fishing as their main source of food. But as fisherman continually fish and overexploited the offshore waters the coral reefs are also being directly affected. In addition, with climate change underway, sea-level rise will also cause a decrease in the number of coral reefs. Coral bleaching has also been an issue of the barrier-type reefs of the coast of Sri Lanka, with ocean acidification and increasing CO2 levels, the PH level of the water decreases, and the reefs are not able to make their shells (5 Coral Reefs of Sri Lanka: Current Status and Resource Management).


Because global climate change is happening faster than predictions could ever have envisioned, education and public awareness is important in reducing our overall consumption of natural resources and limiting the amount of CO2 we emit, the main attributor to climate change. There are several nonprofit organizations within Sri Lanka petitioning for a more sustainable environment for both humans and species alike. The Sri Lanka Wildlife Conservation Society (SLWCS) main purpose is to conserve the dwindling biodiversity of Sri Lanka. They have completing several conservation projects including a wetlands conservation project along with many habitat restoration missions. Currently the SLWCS has seven proposed projects they hope to take on in the near future (Forming Partnerships to Preserve Sri Lanka’s Biodiversity). Their mission for these proposed projects is as follows; “Our experience over the past 12 years indicates that agriculture, fisheries and tourism related activities have a great impact on our natural resources. Over 70% of our people depend on agricultural activities for their livelihoods. The SLWCS devotes most of its effort to introducing better land use and agricultural practices so that agricultural development can be sustained over the long-term” (SLWCS Mission). Even though this particular group features maintaining the well being of many elephants in Sri Lanka, they have similar goals and aspirations to build a better more sustainable environment for humans, plants and animals. Another amazing conservation group in Sri Lanka prides themselves in protecting natural habitats and educating children through wildlife camps about the importance of Sri Lanka’s rich biodiversity. Sri Lankan Wilds has been creating and maintaining natural habitats through knowledge and education. Currently in Sri Lanka there are several nature parks that preserve habitats for many animals. However, the challenge with conserving habitats also depends on the speed at which climate change occurs. Creating nature reserves is important however as climate change continues, the range for these endemic species may be altered, therefore habitat continuation is a must for the future, allowing for adequate corridor systems linking similar environments together so species will be able to adjust to the changing climate (Wildlife and Nature Protection Society of Sri Lanka). As far as conserving the climate of Sri Lanka, the amount of CO2 that is emitted in Sri Lanka is small to none compared to many of the larger countries in the US. The National Climate Change Adaption Strategy (NCCAS) has prioritized a framework for combating and coping with climate change. There framework includes five key components that will be assessed from 2011 to 2016. The following is the framework the NCCAS will follow; 1. Mainstream Climate Change Adaptation into National Planning and Development 2. Enable Climate Resilient and Healthy Human Settlements 3. Minimize Climate Change Impacts on Food Security 4. Improve Climate Resilience of Key Economic Drivers 5. Safeguard Natural Resources and Biodiversity from Climate Change Impacts This framework will help Sri Lanka offset potential climate changes in the near future. The NCCAS understands that stopping climate change is unrealistic, so many of their goals have to do with preparing and understanding what they need to do to prepare both economically but also environmentally. Because Sri Lanka lies close to the equator, it undoubtedly receives more direct sunlight therefore causing increased temperatures. As all the effects of climate change set in, potential sea level rise will occur, changing both the marine and terrestrial environments. There is little the people of Sri Lanka can do to stop the effects of climate change, there is only adapting from this point on. The endemic species and their habitats will need to be protected through nature reserves, but also governments will need to implement strict development boundaries so precious habitats are not consumed with human population growth.


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