Greater Yellowstone Coalition - Climate Change 9-30-11

Sep 30, 2011

EcoFlight flew with the Greater Yellowstone Coalition to observe impacts of climate change in the Greater Yelowstone Ecosystem.

The 20-million-acre Greater Yellowstone area is one of the country's most complete ecosystems. But rapid changes in climate are impacting the regions wildlife and wildlife habitats.

A mountain pine beetle infestation, believed to have been driven by climate change, has destroyed unprecedented numbers of whitebark pines, the dominant trees of Greater Yellowstone's highest-elevation forests and a critical late-season food source for the grizzly bear. The trees, which also play a key role in controlling erosion and sustaining late-season water flows, have suffered die-offs approaching a staggering 85 percent.

Other migratory wildlife in Greater Yellowstone is also at risk, including the region's pronghorns, which for thousands of years have migrated between Grand Teton National Park and the Upper Green River Basin. This corridor is already heavily affected by land-use changes and could be further threatened by any vegetation shifts caused by climate change.

Climate change has also increased the frequency of wildfires which is altering the composition of the forests in the Greater Yellowstone Ecosystem. Though wildfires are a natural occurrence in the region; hotter and drier conditions and longer fire seasons will make wildfires more numerous, larger and more destructive than they used to be.

Climate change is a daunting challenge, but the Greater Yellowstone Coalition is committed to ensuring the lands, waters, and wildlife of Greater Yellowstone has the best chance possible to adapt and flourish. Reducing existing stressors, restoring degraded habitats and allowing wildlife the chance to move and migrate to suitable locations will all play an important role in this effort.