Report Lists 10 U.S. Ecosystems Whose Species Are Most-Threatened By Climate Change

Yellowstone National Park is massive, and within that  landscape reside species  such as blotched tiger salamanders and boreal chorus frogs to elk, bison, and, of course, wolves and grizzly bears. And don’t overlook the myriad plant, bird, and aquatic species.  The Yellowstone ecosystem, considered by some to be “one of the largest ‘intact’ ecosystems remaining in the temperate zones of the world,” is rich in biological life. But that ecosystem with its diversity of life is among the top 10 in the country whose species are greatly threatened by global warming associated with climate change, according to a report issued last week.
Across this landscape the early effects of climate change already are being noticed. According to research in Yellowstone, the growing season has lengthened by two weeks in recent decades. One result of that is that willows in the park are growing at three times the average rate noted in the 1980s, according to the 2010 issue of Yellowstone Resources and Issues.
That might not be such a bad thing if you’re an elk or moose that feeds on willows, but the conditions that allow for such rapid growth might not be equally conducive for other species in Yellowstone. 

Ecosystems named in It’s Getting Hot Out There: Top 10 Places to Save for Endangered Species in a Warming World, prepared by the coalition with input from such diverse groups as Save our Wild Salmon, Audubon, Oceana, the Natural Resources Defense Council, Defenders of Wildlife, and others, encompass a number of national parks. Along with Yellowstone and Grand Teton, such National Park System units as Virgin Islands National Park, Biscayne National Park, Dry Tortugas National Park, Yosemite National Park, Sequoia National Park, Kings Canyon National Park, Gulf Islands National Seashore, Padre Island National Seashore, and Everglades National Park fall within the top 10 endangered ecosystems the groups named.

The top 10 ecosystems to save for endangered species featured in the report:

1. The Arctic Sea Ice, home to the polar bear, Pacific walrus and at least 6 species of seal. 

2. Shallow Water Coral Reefs, home to the critically endangered elkhorn and staghorn coral.

3. The Hawaiian Islands, home to more than a dozen imperiled birds, and 319 threatened and endangered plants.

4. Southwest Deserts, home to numerous imperiled plants, fish, and mammals.

5. The San Francisco Bay-Delta, home to the imperiled Pacific salmon, Swainson’s hawk, tiger salamander and Delta smelt.

6. California Sierra Mountains, home to 30 native species of amphibian, including the Yellow-legged frog.

7. The Snake River Basin, home to four imperiled runs of salmon and steelhead.

8. Greater Yellowstone Ecosystem, home to the imperiled Whitebark pine, an important food source for animals, including the threatened Grizzly bear.

9. The Gulf Coast’s flatlands and wetlands, home to the Piping and Snowy plovers, Mississippi sandhill crane, and numerous species of sea turtles.

10. The Greater Everglades, home to 67 threatened and endangered species, including the manatee and the red cockcaded woodpecker.

It’s Getting Hot Out There (attached below), points to some conservation strategies that could help these ecosystems and their residents:

aggressively reducing greenhouse gas pollution is the most important step to guard against climate change

Assisting species’ adaptation to the rapidly changing world will be essential to ensuring their survival.

eradicating invasive species, setting aside open space, creating wildlife corridors, and restoring wild lands.

preventing offshore oil and gas drilling in the Arctic
transforming how we manage the water that flows through California
We must invest significantly more in funding, political solutions and hands-on conservation in a massive effort to help ecosystems and species adapt.
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