Title: Global Warming: Early Warning Signs, Part Four: Climate Change and Ecosystems
Grade Level: High school
Source: Union of Concerned Scientists

Curriculum Materials


  • Explore the complexity of ecosystem interdependencies ;
  • Explain how climate change could affect the components of an ecosystem;
  • Suggest ways to detect the impacts of climate change on ecosystems.


  • Regional nature guides; biology or environmental science textbooks
  • Computers with Internet access (desirable, but not necessary)
  • Global Warming: Early Warning Signs map (provided)

UCS has created a four part curriculum of which we are featuring part four. This activity includes a local ecosystem case study by the class, involving library research, and ideally a field trip to collect data about the plants and animals in the ecosystem. Each student will prepare a report on one species, including the manner in which that species could be affected by climate change. Research is to be presented as reasoned hypotheses, along with a summary essay on how the ecosystem as a whole may be changed. Final exercise is a summary of the current status of the ecosystem, and a prediction of its state in the year 2100 given the projected changes. For extension, students can design an experiment to test for the beginning signs of climate change, considering physical, biological, and chemical measurement possibilities. Students can also research, compare, and contrast the impacts of climate change of a very different ecosystem from the one they studied for this exercise. Numerous resources are provided.

State Framework relevance: