Climate Change

One of the biggest issues of concern currently affecting our national parks is climate change. A 2016 Program Brief published by the National Park Service states:

“Responding to climate change is the greatest challenge facing the National Park Service (NPS) today. Our national parks contain some of the most treasured landscapes and important historical sites in this country. They are also among the most vulnerable. National parks have always helped us better understand the workings of our planet, the lessons of history, and our relationship to the world around us. Even under the threat of climate change, these natural and cultural resources can teach us how our planet is changing and teach us about conservation for future generations.”


In 2010 the NPS released a four-part NPS Climate Change Response Strategy.This strategy identified four key components which guide the agency in their decision making and management regarding climate change:  

• Science
• Adaptation
• Mitigation
• Communication


Mammoth Cave National Park works closely with regional and national personnel to implement the strategy at the local level.

Specific Impacts

Mammoth Cave National Park contains some resources, particularly those associated with caves, which might be significantly impacted by climate change, especially warming temperatures.

A furry brown bat hangs upside down from a rock ceiling
Tri-colored bats rely upon caves and mine shafts for winter hibernation.

NPS Photo

Hibernating Bats

Some hibernating bat species require a very narrow temperature range to survive over-winter, others require comparatively cold hibernacula found only in a few caves or sections of caves in the park. These cave areas typically have open, vertical entrances or chambers into which cold air sinks, especially at night, and keeps the temperature several degrees colder than most of the other cave passages nearby. If the average winter temperature of these areas increases by only a few degrees, these bats may not be able to survive here.

It is likely that if the local habitat becomes too warm, bats may tend to migrate north of the park searching for cooler caves to use for hibernation. Unfortunately, the range of caves which provide potential habitat for these bats runs out not too far north of the park. Meaning, if the caves of the Mammoth Cave area become too warm as the climate changes, there may not be any place for these bats to go.

Bright green vines cover the ground, trees, and anything else within reach.
Invasive kudzu vines grow quickly and block out sunlight from any plants it covers.


Harmful and Invasive Plants and Animals

Other serious concerns about climate change may include an increase in populations of invasive plant and animal species. Some aggressive plant species such as Japanese honeysuckle and kudzu are partially kept in check in the park due to winters which are cold enough to reduce their rate of spread. Other animal species such as armadillos appear to be expanding their range northward as the climate warms, introducing entirely new components into the ecosystem. The effects of other new predators and consumers in an ecosystem are unknown at best. With warming temperatures and other changing climatic conditions, populations of species such as ticks and other insects may see alarming increases, without long enough periods of below freezing temperatures to help keep their populations in check over winters.

Weather Patterns

Climate change may also include a change in variables such as amounts of precipitation, relative humidity, and severe weather occurrences. Each of these changes may affect any number of resources within the park in ways which would not otherwise occur. To prepare for this, the NPS is implementing the four-part Climate Change Strategy mentioned above as a best management practice to identify and minimize potential impacts associated with climate change.


Read More About Climate Change at Other Parks

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    Last updated: January 10, 2022

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    P.O. Box 7
    Mammoth Cave, KY 42259-0007


    270 758-2180

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