Adapting to the reality of climate change at Glacier National Park, Montana, USA (2005)

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The glaciers of Glacier National Park (GNP) are disappearing rapidly and likely will be gone by 2030. These alpine glaciers have been continuously present for approximately 7,000 years so their loss from GNP in another 25 years underscores the significance of current climate change. There are presently only 27 glaciers remaining of the 150 estimated to have existed when GNP was created in 1910. Mean annual temperature in GNP has increased 1.60C during the past cen-tury, three times the global mean increase. The temperature increase has affected other parts of the mountain ecosystem, too. Snowpacks hold less water equivalent and melt 2+ weeks earlier in the spring. Forest growth rates have increased, alpine treelines have expanded upward and be-come denser, and subalpine meadows have been invaded by high elevation tree species. These latter responses can be mostly attributed to longer growing seasons and warmer temperatures. Ecosystem modeling of possible future changes in the GNP mountain environments suggest that increased tree growth rates and evapotranspiration will reduce soil moisture and streamflow. The drier forests, with more wood, will burn more frequently and with greater severity, leading to degra-dation in air quality and increased risk to people and infrastructure. Management of forest fires is an important issue in the arid western United States. In 2003, 13% of GNP?s 4,082 km2 was burned in three large fires and numerous smaller fires. Managers can accomplish some of their goals, such as preserving threatened wildlife populations, by altering their management of fires. In 2003, intense efforts were successfully made to divert the fires away from valuable grizzly bear (Ursus arctos horribilis) habitat that contained huckleberry plants (Vaccinium spp.) necessary to ensure bear survival through the winter.
Year: 2005
Language: English
In: Proceedings of The First International Conference on the Impact of Climate Change on High-Mountain Systems, Bogota, Colombia, November 21-23, 2005. Instituto de Hidrologia, Meteorologia y Estudios Ambientales IDEAM, Bogota, Colombia pp 221-235,



 Record created 2011-12-21, last modified 2014-03-19