View from Angel's Landing in Zion National Park. Image via: StevenLPierce on Flickr.com
You've heard the warnings, "Visit Glacier National Park While it Still Has Glaciers" and that Virgin Islands Coral Reef National Park won't have coral much longer, but now the National Resources Defense Council and the Rocky Mountain Climate Organization (RMCO) are reporting that climate change is way more serious and possibly the 'gravest threat ever' to US National Parks. Some of these areas are the most fragile in the United States, others, just don't lie far enough above sea level. Find out which ones, er, made the list, and what is being done to help.When you think climate change and national parks, you're probably envisioning an area with trees dying off and maybe loss of some native grasses. But what about the National Parks that are coastal or even islands, like Ellis Island, that will be submerged or at least unviewable as they are underwater. Not that our National Parks aren't under threat enough, with budget cuts and competing interests from oil and gas rights to off road vehicles, seems our National Parks could use some help.
The following are 25 of the most threatened US National Parks:
- Acadia National Park
- Assateague Island National Seashore
- Bandelier National Monument
- Biscayne National Park
- Cape Hatteras National Seashore
- Colonial National Historical Park
- Denali National Park and Preserve
- Dry Tortugas National Park
- Ellis Island National Monument
- Everglades National Park
- Glacier National Park
- Great Smoky Mountains National Park
- Indiana Dunes National Lakeshore
- Joshua Tree National Park
- Lake Mead National Recreation Area
- Mesa Verde National Park
- Mount Rainier National Park
- Padre Island National Seashore
- Rocky Mountain National Park
- Saguaro National Park
- Theodore Roosevelt National Park
- Virgin Islands National Park/Virgin Islands Coral Reef National Monument
- Yellowstone National Park
- Yosemite National Park
- Zion National Park.
The report created by NRDC and RMCO identifies the 25 most threatened national parks and then includes sections detailing the specific threats to each park. Mesa Verde National Park for example has lost most of its pinon pines, while Yellowstone National Park summers are so hot that they are killing trout, a coldwater fish. The categories of threats to each park identified include: Loss of Ice & Snow; Loss of Water; Higher Seas and Stronger Storms; More Downpours and Floods; Loss of Plant Communities; Loss of Wildlife; Loss of Cultural Communities; Intolerable Heat; More Overcrowding; Loss of Fishing; and More Air Pollution.
Most of the recommendations by the report focus on clean energy legislation and mitigation efforts to try and lower carbon emissions. While this is important, we already know there will be some sea level rise and some temperature change, so the parks themselves should be focusing more on adaptation efforts when it comes to protection. How to keep the Everglades from getting washed out into the ocean, thus changing the ecosystem, without just walling off the area in the process, for example.
There are over 275 million visitors to National Parks each year, which presents a great opportunity to educate the american public, as well as the global public, to not just changes thanks to climate change, but also to the dire threat these parks are under. Other recommendations under the report include expanding park lands to allow species more room to adapt, as well as protecting migration corridors. To read the entire report, go to NRDC or Rocky Mountain Climate Organization. You can also watch a video discussion of this report at NRDC. :NRDC :Rocky Mountain Climate Organization
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