The purpose of this study is to develop the first models of Mount Rainier wetland ecosystem response to climate change. This study is part of a broader effort to forecast the impacts of climate change on wetland ecosystems in the Pacific Northwest, and to develop climate adaptation strategies for vulnerable wetland types and assemblages such as amphibians.
Wetlands are globally important, but understudied ecosystems. In the Mount Rainier National Park and other regions of the Cascade Range, wetlands range from large low-elevation riparian wetland complexes to high-elevation ponds and lakes. Wetland ecosystems provide important habitat and food for many species from invertebrates to amphibians to carnivores. Montane wetlands also provide water storage for lower-elevation regions outside the Park. In general, wetlands are considered highly sensitive to climate change. The Cascades region is particularly sensitive to climate change, and is already experiencing shifts in the timing of snowfall and snowmelt, soil moisture stress, and recharge. These changes in hydrologic response will result in systematic changes in the timing and duration of water available to wetland wildlife and plants. Our study fills an important knowledge gap by developing the first forecasts of climate impacts on Cascades wetlands. By modeling how wetland dynamics may change in future decades and their potential impacts on wildlife, we hope to enhance the management capacity of Mount Rainier and other regional National Parks to preserve their rich natural heritage. For example, our maps and models may help NPS managers identify species and wetland types at greatest risk, and decide how to allocate resources for climate adaptation accordingly.