China lost a Yangtze river dolphin. Climate change is coming for species next

China lost a Yangtze river dolphin.  Climate change is coming for species next
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“The Baiji or Yangtze River dolphin was this unique and beautiful creature – there was nothing like it,” said Samuel Turvey, a British zoologist and conservationist who spent more than two decades in China trying to track the animal.

“It’s been around for tens of millions of years and it’s in its own mammal family. There are other river dolphins in the world, but this dolphin was very different, it wasn’t related to anything else,” Turvey said. “Its death was more than just another species tragedy – it was a huge loss of river diversity in terms of how unique it was, and it left huge holes in the ecosystem.”

Experts have expressed grave concern that other rare native Yangtze animal and plant species will face a fate similar to the baiji river dolphin as worsening climate change and extreme weather wreak havoc on Asia’s longest river.

China is struggling with it worst heat wave ever record and the Yangtze is the third longest river in the world it dries up.
With below-average rainfall since July, its water levels have fallen to a record 50% of their normal levels for this time of year. the exposer cracked river beds and even revealed submerged islands.
Some parts of the Yangtze River have dried up due to extreme heat.
The drought stretches nearly 6,300 kilometers (3,900 mi) from the Tibetan Plateau to the East China Sea near Shanghai, and has affected water, food, transportation and hydroelectric power to more than 400 million people.
Human influence has been enormous. Factories were closed conserve electricity and the water supply of tens of thousands of people was damaged.

Less talked about is the ecological impact of climate change and related extreme weather events on the hundreds of protected and threatened wildlife and plant species that live in and around the river, experts say.

“The Yangtze is one of the world’s most ecologically critical rivers for biodiversity and freshwater ecosystems, and we are still discovering new species every year,” said Hua Fangyuan, a conservation ecologist at Peking University.

“Many small (known) and unknown fish and other aquatic species are likely to be silently at risk of extinction, and we simply don’t know enough.”

A Chinese crocodile in a zoo in Shanghai.  Native to the Yangtze, their numbers in the wild are declining and may worsen as the river recedes and dries up.

Hundreds of species are at risk

Over the years, scientists and scholars have identified and documented the conservation of wildlife and plant species native to the Yangtze.

The world's rivers are drying up due to extreme weather conditions.  See what 6 looks like from space

Among them is the Yangtze finless pigfish, which is similar to baiji. threatened with extinction due to human activity and habitat loss, and critically endangered reptiles such as the Chinese crocodile and the Yangtze giant softshell turtle — believed to be the largest freshwater turtle species in the world.

Experts have also noted the dramatic decline of many native freshwater fish species, such as the now-extinct Chinese paddlefish and sturgeon.

The Chinese giant salamander, one of the world’s largest amphibians, is at high risk. Zoologist Turvey said wild populations had been decimated and the species was “now on the brink of extinction”.

“Although they are a protected species, Chinese giant salamanders are under threat from more than just climate change – rising global temperatures and droughts will do nothing to help them, when they are already extremely vulnerable,” Turvey said.

A Chinese giant salamander pictured at a local breeding facility.

“They have long faced threats like poaching, habitat loss and pollution, but when you add climate change to the mix, their chances of survival are drastically reduced,” he said.

“They can only live in freshwater environments, and low water levels will inevitably put more pressure on their numbers in China.”

A problem for the world

Nature groups such as the World Wildlife Fund (WWF) say the Yangtze’s plight is of great concern not only to the Chinese people and government, but also to the wider international community.

“From Europe to the United States, rivers around the world have dropped to historically low flow levels that are negatively impacting ecosystems,” said its lead scientist, Jeff Opperman.

“Decreased river flows and warmer waters in the Yangtze threaten freshwater species and increase pressure on already-threatened animals such as the Yangtze finless porpoise and Chinese alligators that remain in the wild. Lower river levels also affect the health of (nearby) lakes. and East Asia Wetlands along the Flyway are vital for millions of migratory birds.

Yantsze giant soft-shelled tortoise at a zoo in Jiangsu province.  The species and other turtles are considered critically endangered.
Hua, a conservation ecologist, said there is more public awareness and more efforts It was needed to help China’s shrinking Great River. “Humans depend on nature to survive, period. That’s a lesson for any civilization,” he said.

“The Yangtze is the longest river in China and (all of) Asia and has long been the cradle of civilization. Despite serious conservation threats and losses over the years, there is still much biodiversity in and along the Yangtze to protect.”

The now-extinct Chinese sturgeon: this fish was released into the Yangtze River in 2015.

Few would deny the importance and symbolism of the Yangtze. But experts say that unless action is taken — and soon — more species will follow the fate of the baiji and Chinese paddlefish.

English zoologist Turvey warned against a kind of complacency that allowed the baiji to disappear.

Turvey said, “The Yangtze was a jewel in the crown of Asia. There is still a lot of biodiversity to fight for, and we must not lose hope to save giant salamanders, river reptiles and other species.”

“If there’s one thing we can learn from the death of the Yangtze River dolphin, it’s that extinction is eternal, and we can’t take that lightly.”

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