Due to human activities, the world's animal and plant species are disappearing at a rate some experts put at 1,000 times the natural progression, the United Nations said January 1, marking 2010 as the International Year of Biodiversity - the variety of life on Earth.
The purpose of the International Year is to raise public awareness of the importance of biodiversity and the consequences of its loss to human well-being.
The Year's official launch will take place in Berlin on January 11.
Ten species likely to be hardest hit by climate change are profiled in a new research report from the International Union for the Conservation of Nature, IUCN.
The Arctic fox, leatherback turtle and koala are among these most vulnerable species and so are the beluga whale, clownfish, emperor penguin, quiver tree, ringed seal, salmon and staghorn corals.
The report, "Species and Climate Change," shows how climate change is adversely affecting marine, terrestrial and freshwater habitats.
Polar species are being affected by loss of ice due to global warming, according to the report. An Arctic species, the ringed seal is being forced further north as the sea ice it relies on for pup-rearing retreats.
"Marked decreases in ringed seal abundance are likely to have cascading effects in Arctic food webs. They are the most important species in the diet of polar bears," said Kovacs.
The Arctic tundra on which the Arctic fox depends is disappearing as warming temperatures allow new plant species to flourish. As the habitat changes from tundra to forest, the red fox, which preys on the Arctic fox and competes with it for food, is able to move further north, reducing the Arctic fox's territory.
The Arctic's beluga whale is likely to be affected by global warming both directly, through loss of sea ice and resulting difficulty finding prey, and indirectly, through human activity as melting sea ice opens up previously inaccessible areas. Ship strikes, pollution and gas and oil exploration all put this marine mammal at greater risk.
The emperor penguin, adapted to unforgiving Antarctic conditions, faces a similar problem. Regional sea ice, which it needs for mating, chick-rearing and moulting, is declining.
Reduced ice cover also means less krill, affecting food availability for the emperor penguin and many other Antarctic species.
The impacts of climate change are not limited to the polar regions. In more tropical areas, staghorn corals, which include some 160 species, are severely affected by rising ocean temperatures, which causes coral bleaching. Ocean acidification, the result of too much CO2 in the oceans, weakens the corals' skeletons.
Clownfish are also victims of ocean acidification. Acidic water disrupts their sense of smell, impairing their ability to find their specific host anemone, which they rely on for protection. Salmon are threatened by increases in water temperature, which reduces water's oxygen levels, increases their susceptibility to disease and disrupts their breeding efforts.
The leatherback turtle is being affected by rising sea levels and increased storm activity due to climate change which destroys its nesting habitats.
Australia's iconic koala faces malnutrition and ultimate starvation, the IUCN report shows. Increasing atmospheric CO2 levels will reduce the nutritional quality of eucalyptus leaves, causing nutrient shortages in the species that eat them. As a result, koalas may no longer be able to meet their nutritional needs.
An increase in CO2 levels directly threatens other plants. The quiver tree is losing populations in the equator-ward parts of its distribution range due to drought stress.