Some may still debate the veracity of climate change, but long-term looks at what’s happening to the weather suggests that something is occurring. Whether it’s the doings of man, a natural occurrence, or both, it’s occurring. And, it means big changes possibly for us in the Great Lakes region.
Here’s a report just released today that speaks to it from a wildlife perspective:
Climate change is already changing the playing field for wildlife and urgent action is needed to preserve America’s conservation legacy, according to a new report released today by the National Wildlife Federation.
Wildlife in a Warming World: Confronting the Climate Crisis examines case studies from across the country illustrating how global warming is altering wildlife habitats. It recommends solutions that would protect not just wildlife but communities across America from the growing climate-fueled threats such as sea level rise, wildfires and drought.
“Some of America’s most iconic species—from moose to sandhill cranes to sea turtles – are seeing their homes transformed by rapid climate change,” said Dr. Amanda Staudt, senior climate scientist at the National Wildlife Federation. “Climate disruption is the most serious threat facing America’s wildlife and requires action at the local, state and federal levels.”
The National Wildlife Federation report covers eight regions of the U.S., from the Arctic to the Atlantic coast, and details concrete examples of wildlife struggling to adapt to the climate crisis. Highlights from the Great Lakes and Midwestern region include:
· Water levels in the Great Lakes are expected to decline anywhere from a few inches to several feet as increases in heat-driven evaporation outpace increases in precipitation. Fluctuating water levels facilitate establishment of the highly invasive species and the decline of native wildlife.
· More heavy rainfall events are increasing runoff of nutrients from agricultural lands, contributing to harmful algae blooms in Lake Erie and causing oxygen-depleted dead zones.
· As water temperatures increase, the Great Lakes will become more suitable for warm-water fish such as smallmouth bass and bluegill, but less suitable for cool-water and cold-water species such as northern pike and whitefish, respectively. Streams flowing into the Great Lakes, such as the Black River in northern Ohio, could lose a half of their fish species by mid-century.
Chad Kettlewell, senior ecologist with Coldwater Consulting, saw firsthand the impacts of climate change on the Black River in Lorain. “I worked with the National Wildlife Federation to identify ways in which restoration might be modified to account for climate change,” said Kelltewell. “These new ‘climate-smart’ restoration projects are important because absent consideration of climate, the success and longevity of restoration could be compromised.”
The report comes in the wake of President Barack Obama’s January 21 inaugural address targeting climate change as a priority. “We will respond to the threat of climate change knowing that the failure to do so would betray our children and future generations,” said President Obama. “That is how we will maintain our economic vitality and our national treasure—our forests and waterways; our croplands and snow-capped peaks.”
Hunters, anglers, boaters, and outdoor enthusiasts have seen the progressive changes and understand the need for solutions. “By taking action now to reduce the amount of toxic pollution from the nation’s largest sources and provide support for wildlife-friendly wind, solar, and geothermal energy to power a new clean energy economy for all Americans, we can provide a better future for wildlife and people,” said Brenda Archambo, Outreach Consultant for the National Wildlife Federation in Michigan. “If we don’t enact the solutions we have on hand to reduce carbon pollution, people, wildlife and our outdoor heritage will continue to suffer.”
The report recommends a four-pronged attack to confront the climate crisis’ threats to wildlife and communities:
1. Address the underlying cause and cut carbon pollution 50 percent by 2030;
2. Transition to cleaner, more secure sources of energy like wind and solar power while avoiding dirty energy choices like coal;
3. Protect renewable energy and energy efficiency standards at the state level that help in reducing harmful emissions;
4. Safeguard wildlife and their habitats by promoting climate-smart approaches to conservation;
5. Help communities prepare for and respond to the impacts of climate change such as more extreme weather and the threat of invasive species.
“We know what is causing the climate changes that we are all seeing in our own backyards,” said Tracy Sabetta, representing the National Wildlife Federation in Ohio. “What we need is the political leadership to make smart energy choices and wise investments in protecting our natural resources.”
Read the report at www.nwf.org/climatecrisis. Get more National Wildlife Federation news at NWF.org/News.