Climate Change and the Aquarium

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Climate Change Curriculum

The North Carolina Aquarium at Fort Fisher teamed up with the Coastal America Federation to create a film on climate change in the Cape Fear Region. To supplement the film, an aquarium educator created a curriculum focusing on climate. Explore the film and the supporting curriculum on the project’s website: www.weseachange.weebly.com

Climate Change and Marine Animals

CORAL

CORAL

CORAL

Coral reefs make up less than one percent of the bottom of the ocean but are home to 25% of all ocean creatures.

Corals are animals related to jellyfish and sea anemones. Corals have an algae, called zooxanthellae, that lives in their tissue and provides them with food.

Corals are very sensitive to environmental changes. As the ocean warms, corals expel their zooxanthellae in a process called coral bleaching.

Without their zoozanthellae, most corals starve, causing a loss of critical ocean habitat.

 

NCAFF_CSLoggerhead_Swim

Loggerhead Sea Turtle

SEA TURTLES

Five of the seven species of sea turtles are commonly found off the coast of North Carolina: loggerhead, green, leatherback, Kemp’s ridley and hawksbill.

Every spring female sea turtles come to shore to lay their eggs on the beach.

As sea levels rise due to climate change, it will become more difficult for sea turtles to lay their eggs above the high tide line.

The gender of a sea turtle is determined by the temperature at which the eggs incubate. As the planet warms, this can affect the gender ratios of turtles.

 

Oyster Bed in North Carolina coastal salt marsh

Oyster bed in North Carolina coastal salt marsh

SHELLFISH

Many shellfish, such as clams and oysters, build their shells using calcium carbonate from the ocean.

As carbon dioxide levels in the atmosphere increase more carbon dioxide is absorbed into the ocean.

In the ocean, carbon dioxide binds with calcium carbonate and changes it in such a way that it is not as useful for shellfish. This is called ocean acidification.

Declining numbers of shellfish from ocean acidification will have a ripple effect up the food chain. Many of our local animals eat shellfish, including stingrays and other commercial fish species.

It’s Not Too Late

It is not too late to help our ocean and marine animals. If we work together to take a variety of actions, we can make a difference. Start with simple behaviors: ride your bike around town, turn off the light switch when you leave a room, bring reusable bags to the store.

To make an even bigger impact, get involved in your community. Share issues important to you and support causes that will help our ocean. Ask civic leaders to invest in green power, support public transportation, reduce plastic use and pass laws to help decrease the amount of carbon dioxide produced. Working together we can make a difference!

 

For more information about Climate Change explore these links:

Sea Level Rise Communication in North Carolina 

Climate Interpreter 

Do the Right Thing Pledge for North Atlantic Right Whales

Climate Change in North Carolina, State Climate Office of North Carolina