Parks Seriously Affected by Climate Change, Study FindsAgency and Park Updates
Climate change is happening in America’s national parks, in some cases in rapid and concerning ways, confirms a new report from the National Park Service. These changes will have implications for what visitors see and experience in national parks and will require new approaches to the protection of natural and historic resources within parks.
“This report shows that climate change continues to be the most far-reaching and consequential challenge ever faced by our national parks,” said National Park Service Director Jonathan B. Jarvis. “Our national parks can serve as places where we can monitor and document ecosystem change without many of the stressors that are found on other public lands.”
In the article Climate Exposure of US National Parks in a New Era of Change, NPS scientists studied climate data of the last 10 to 30 years as compared to the historical range of variability from 1901 to 2012 from 289 national parks. They found that temperatures are now at the high end of the range of temperatures measured since 1901. This is true across several temperature measurements, including annual average temperature, average temperature of the winter months, and average temperature of the summer months. The data also point to changes in precipitation patterns over time.
These findings are consistent with previous research by the National Park Service, as well as other national and international reports including the recently released National Climate Assessment.
Grand Canyon National Park is one example of an area with significant natural resources that has recently experienced extreme high average temperatures compared to its historical patterns. Warmer temperatures and extended drought are a direct threat to endangered species, and impacts the wildlife’s source of drinking water such as seeps and springs in the canyon.
Historic sites are not immune to the impacts of climate change. At Chesapeake and Ohio Canal National Historical Park, increased temperatures and hydrologic changes have the potential to alter the natural and manmade resources of the park. These effects could include landscape changes that will affect access to and the structural integrity of bridges, locks, lock houses, culverts, dams, and monuments. Increased occurrences of severe storms, flooding, and other unpredictable weather, and changes in growing seasons will affect vegetation and the animals that depend on that vegetation.
The international online scientific journal PLoS ONE highlighted this analysis in a new collection titled “Responding to Climate Change,” which relays the recent research focused on solutions to manage resources in a changing climate. A copy of that original article may be found here. ###
WPA'S Art Legacy and America's Public Lands
Over the course of two decades and through extensive research, Doug Leen and his company, Ranger Doug’s Enterprises have not only painstakingly reproduced the 14 original WPA designs but also—working in collaboration with individual parks—created and screen printed more than 25 new designs “in the style of” the WPA artists. The iconic prints sustain a rich artistic tradition and resonate with park and vintage graphics enthusiasts worldwide. The U.S. Department of the Interior Museum has united for the first time six WPA originals and a full complement of Leen’s contemporary editions for this visually stunning retrospective. Featured are nearly 50 classic posters associated with 36 national parks, the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge and the Interior Museum. The works may be viewed from now through Spring 2015 at the Interior Museum, 1849 C. Street in Washington, D.C. ###
The area of study includes a portion of a Late Pleistocene megatracksite within and around White Sands National Monument. Thousands of “Ice Age” fossil vertebrate tracks and track ways that date back approximately 20,000 years have been documented within the White Sands megatracksite. The trace fossil assemblage is dominated by mammoth footprints along with associated camel-like and large and small carnivore tracks. These fossil tracks are preserved in soft sediments that are fragile, ephemeral, and weather rapidly once exposed.
Monitoring fossil tracks preserved within the monument continuously reveals new fossil track occurrences, as well as documents the rapid deterioration of previously recorded tracks. Traditional ground level monitoring and photography that captures high resolution imagery for remote sensing and analysis of fossil trackways requires close proximity that results in ground disturbance and leads to the accumulation of modern human footprint impressions in the soft sediments near the fossil tracks. This potentially leads to overprinting of fossil tracks and damaging some tracks not initially identified by the photographer on the ground.
The Department of Defense provided high resolution satellite imagery for the area of the monument encompassing the megatracksite and authorized the BLM flight crew to fly an unmanned aircraft system – specifically, the RQ-16 Tarantula-Hawk (T-Hawk) pictured above – in the DOD restricted airspace over the park.
Several manuscripts will describe these important fossil tracks and the technology and methodologies used in their documentation. The monument staff will roll the new findings into comprehensive interpretive planning, media development, wayside exhibits, and hands-on activities. ###
Digital Access Provided to Historical Panoramic Photographs from National Park Service Lookouts
The bison herd at Yellowstone National Park is healthy and productive--so much so that it's approaching the peak estimate of 5,000 animals made back in 2005.
During their annual summer aerial bison count, park biologists estimated the Northern herd contained 3,200 animals and the Central herd numbered 1,400 for a total park population of 4,600 animals. There were about 700 calves-of-the-year observed in a June aerial survey, a park release said.
Observations in 2013 represented an increase of 8.75 percent over last year's count, the park noted. The observed rate of population change this past year is within the natural range of expectation for wild bison. This population estimate is used to inform adaptive management strategies under the Interagency Bison Management Plan (IBMP). The IBMP is a cooperative plan designed to conserve a viable, wild bison population while minimizing the risk of brucellosis transmission between bison and cattle.
The cooperating agencies operating under the IBMP are the National Park Service, the U.S. Forest Service, the Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service, the Montana Department of Livestock, the Montana Department of Fish, Wildlife and Parks, the InterTribal Buffalo Council, the Confederated Salish Kootenai Tribes, and the Nez Perce Tribe.###
See the Pecos NHP Museum Collection Online
The cards at Pecos NHP are part of a series of 550 cards available at participating national parks throughout the United States. To "earn" a trading card, kids (and adults) may participate in a ranger-led tour or answer a question about their park visit. "The trading cards are vehicles for telling some 'lesser-known' stories-including the stories of civilians, women, African-Americans, Northern New Mexicans and American Indians," said Superintendent Dennis L. Carruth."They are a great way to engage kids with our history as a nation, both here at Pecos and throughout the United States." The program also provides further incentive to families with children to visit Pecos NHP and the 86 other parks that offer the cards.
Each trading card tells a little-known story, but collectively the cards describe struggles we have endured as a nation to strive for freedom and equality. The Civil War Sesquicentennial and the 50th Anniversary of the Civil Rights Movement provide opportunities to reflect upon our past, celebrate the strides we have made, and look forward with commitment to achieve a more perfect union. ###
Military Pass for Free Access to Public Lands Available at Pecos National Historical Park
The pass will be accepted at National Park Service, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, Bureau of Reclamation, Bureau of Land Management, U.S. Forest Service and U.S. Army Corps sites that charge entrance or standard amenity fees. Where there are entrance fees, the pass covers the owner and accompanying passengers in a single, private, non-commercial vehicle at recreation sites that charge per vehicle. At sites where per-person entrance fees are charged, it covers the pass owner and three accompanying adults age 16 and older. There is no entry fee for children 15 and under.
Although the pass is not available to veterans and retirees, many of these individuals are eligible for other discounted passes, such as the Senior Pass, granting lifetime access to U.S. citizens over 62 for $10, and the Access Pass, granting free lifetime access for permanently disabled U.S. citizens.
For more information about the pass, click here. ###
Science Learning Network
Photo by Patricia Lenihan
Photo by Patricia Lenihan