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How the climate crisis is changing our national parks forever

By Rachel Ramirez, CNN

"All trees can be affected by climate change It's possible, it could be dead from a drought, an insect attack or a fungus, but it's certainly weakening, "Dickman, a forest ecologist at the National Parks Authority, told CNN. "Now, a big change is happening. It's right in front of us."

Climate crisisconsequences-Increased wildfires, catastrophic droughts, rising sea levels , Floods, ecosystem illnesses-are plagued national parks. More recently, unprecedented flash floods have overwhelmed Yellowstone National Park and parts of its surroundings.

Scientists and officials say it shows the dramatic changes that are taking place in the country's most valuable parks. And unless the Earth reduces fossil fuel emissions, scientists say that the climate crisis will dramatically change the landscape, cultural locations and ecosystems of the park, making it inaccessible to humans and inhabiting other species. I believe there is a possibility.

What happened in Yellowstone is also a classic example of an emergency disaster response failure and a converging climate crisis, said Mercy Rockman, a former climate change adaptation coordinator at Park Services.

"When I heard that they were evacuating all visitors from Yellowstone, I said," What the hell, evacuating all visitors is our climate change. It wasn't part of the scenario, "Rockman told CNN. "When I see what my ex-Yellowstone colleague is doing right now, I'm just worried about them."

The park's response to climate change is "how everything is right now." Including "Do you want to evacuate people from the park?" Is just a punch that we don't think we were fully embracing when we started the climate program. "She said.

As more and more events fuel climate change, CNN talks with park service officials and scientists about the climate crisis as the country's most beloved national treasure ecosystem. We investigated how to change the landscape.

Yosemite National Park

Climate change has already become one of the most valuable places in the Sierra Nevada Mountains. Impacting. Yosemite National Park has been forced to close several times in recent years due to extreme heat, deadly mountain fires, or dangerous air quality from the smoke of fire.
The average temperature of the landscape can rise to 10 degrees Celsius by the end of the century, which ispredicted to spike the world's temperature
{38 And it's not a future threat. Park Rangers and scientists have already seen shrinking snowfall, depleting waterfalls, increasing fire activity, and dying trees as Dickman observed.

"People come to Yosemite because there are some of the largest trees on the planet," Dickman said. "But the whole experience at Yosemite is starting to change. We just see the tree line lift in a strange way."

As the average temperature rises, the trees The altitude of the place where the tree grows rises. According to predictive models, this part of the Sierra Nevada Mountains can look like mountains around Los Angeles, according to Dickman, and trees can grow at higher altitudes due to higher temperatures. According to the

survey,also shows that the range of Yosemite's small mammals has shifted uphill over the last century as the region warmed.

Dickman told CNN 10 years ago that he was concerned about various threats, and the park responded to floods from powerful storms from the Pacific Ocean and did not respond to dangerous wildfires. I pointed out that.

"For our preparation now, it's really around the fire and puts the fire back to the ground in a good way to prevent some of the fire effects caused by these climates and fuels. Probably, "he said.

Glacier National Park

Glacier National Parkscientists want the name to disappear altogether. is.

“If you want to see the glaciers, go to Glacier National Park, Montana,” says Basinger. Next 10 or 2 years. They continue to disappear.

In the last 50 years, some of the 26 glaciers in Montana Park have lost 80% of their area. Glacier ice loss is a major threat to the aquatic ecosystems in parks that rely on cold freshwaterand are threatening the surrounding area with increased floods.
Similar to the June floods in Yellowstone, the climate crisis is expected to cause more floods in glaciers. When Yellowstone was closed to visitors during a flood disaster, glacier officials warned visitors that their parks were also experiencing dangerous water levels

{Flood at 75} @YellowstoneNPSDirect your journey to the glacier.

Please note that there is also a flood. Also, read about the vehicle reservation system before you arrive.

Video Description: A short clip zooms in on the water cascade. pic. twitter. com / ZhQ9hfN84I

— Glacier National Park (@GlacierNPS)June 16, 2022

Melting glaciers also rise in sea level Is an important cause of. Caitlin Florentine, a research physicist at the United States Geological Survey who studies glaciers in the United States, said glaciers in Glacier National Park are already quite small. But when taken with other glaciers around the world in a warming climate, they are sufficient to cause a significant sea level rise around the Earth.

"The snowmelt from these glaciers affects very high streams in alpine environments," Florence told CNN, "the presence or absence of glacier snowmelt is east of the park. Rivers that supply water to the agricultural community. ”

Given the rate at which climate change is accelerating, researchers say the timing of losses depends largely on the amount of fossil fuels that will burn in the future. I am.

Sequoia National Park

Just south of the Yosemite Valley in California, the western drought has diminished, andSequoia National Park is the oldest and largest in the country. Trees destroyed
Six fires broke out in six years, and more than 85% of Sequoia's huge orchard area has been a national park service for the last 100 years. Burned throughout the larger Sierra Nevada compared to about 25% of park services. Report of 104}Three of these firesinvaded Sequoia National Park and Kings Canyon National Park, and authorities closed the parkwithout opening it to the public. , Was forced to take dramatic steps to protect the trees.

In September 2021, park biologists wrapped General Sherman's tree base (the largest living tree on the planet) in protective foil as the flames of the KNP complex approached. General Sherman is estimated to be between 2,200 and 2,700 years old and has grown to 275 feet.

The diameter of the tree is over 36 feet at its root, about the same width as the average six cars.

Park scientists have already seen the "major impact" of climate change, said Christie Brigham, Head of Resource Management and Science at Sequoia and Kings Canyon National Parks. Extreme mountain fires, mainly in the form of hotter and drier droughts and how they fuel.

"The recent wildfire burned down the historic director's building," Brigham told CNN. "Therefore, such effects have already occurred in many national parks and will continue."

Brigham said that the climate crisis "is our daily task of managing national parks." Has already changed. "

In addition to maintaining public facilities and ensuring the safety of endangered species, park employees who are also affected by wildfires are cleaning up sidewalks and working on new emergency response systems. She said she was preparing. For events such as fire risk.

"People and all other staff working in these places like me are serious about keeping a great environment for visitors to enjoy in these places and we see changes. "Brigham said. "I came to Sequoia National Park from another park in 2015, and we had already seen a lot of dead trees from the hotter drought, which was only exacerbated by the wildfire."

A national park like Sequoia National Park is "a place to share American values ​​from the perspective of our heritage," she added. "This is where we can connect, see the impacts and make some choices to mitigate those impacts in the future."

Grand Canyon National Park

The effects of rising temperatures on the Colorado River, severe shortages of rainfall, and obstruction of the flow ofare calling for caution in the Grand Canyon National Parks, Park Earth Said Mark Nebel, Science Program Manager.

The climate crisis is decisively changing the ecosystem, species habitat, and hydrology of Arizona Park, Nebel told CNN.

"Snow melts and evaporates about a month earlier than it was a century ago, which has a significant impact on the water level of the [Grand Canyon groundwater] aquifer," Nebel said. I am. "We are concerned about how it affects our drinking water source, the fountain, and most of the biodiversity around the fountain."

Vasey's Paradise Spring Has consistently gone from reliable to dry.

The western droughtdevastated the Colorado River, an important resource in national parks. Increased floods, rock slides, wildfires and storms also pose serious challenges to Grand Canyon's cultural sites, infrastructure, surrounding communities, fisheries and other wildlife.

Due to the hotter and drier climate and aging infrastructure, Nebel said the park's water source was groundwater to surface, which had long relied on one of the Grand Canyon's springs. He said he was changing to a water supply. Other places.

The plunging water level of Lake Powell, upstream of the Colorado River, is the second largest reservoir in the United States, affecting downstream river and park species, according to Nebel. increase.

"When Lake Powell's water level drops, these hot-water invaders, usually near the surface of the water, pass through dams into the Grand Canyon National Park, threatening native fishing," he said. Stated. "Our fishermen have really worked hard to get rid of these native fish like invading trout from the breeding streams."

Nebel has only been working for a few days. We admit most visitors who aren't there. The effects of climate change in the park are largely unnoticed. Not for the park researchers and staff who live with them every day.

"For most of us working in the Grand Canyon, we see these crises, we see danger, we see damage," Nebel said, "it will get worse. ".

Joshua Tree National Park

For Steve Baysinger, a professor of ecology at the University of California, Berkeley, like theJoshua Treein Southern California. Indispensable for scientific research in national parks. But over the years, he has seen how climate change has threatened the park's biodiversity by endangering many species, including small mammals and birds. rice field.

"If you go back to where the early scientists at the University of California, Berkeley visited, and investigate, the number of birds will be about half. It's very warm and dry. That's why, "Bysanger told CNN. "What we see is all sorts of changes in the community. In the case of birds, it collapses. For park managers, the effects of climate change are what they can actually do to reverse this. There are limits. ”

Due to the extreme heat of the Joshua tree, heavy rain shortages, and drought, some species such as cactus mice, kangaroo rats, mountain quails, and otherbirds. The decline was causedspecies
The drought tree itself is also at risk. Scientists have concluded that western Joshua Tree could lose up to 90% of its current habitat in the Mojave Desert by 2070. In mid-June, whether the California Fish Games Commissionwill list trees under the Endangered Species Act of thestate. The four-member committee was split in the middle and could not secure a majority vote to give it status to protect the species.

Jane Rogers, Head of Science and Resource Management at Joshua Tree National Park, said, "It's hard to get to allow land managers to inform and make decisions. I'm fortunate to have long-term data. " She said such comprehensive data would allow park managers to act proactively rather than react to extreme weather and drought.

"We are considering an overall portfolio of things we can do to protect these areas," Rogers told CNN. “Not only will we continue to collect data, but we will also manage fuel and create fuel breaks to protect these areas and increase the likelihood that firefighters will stop the fire. Be prepared in advance as much as possible. ""

Everglades National Park

Opposition at the eastern end of the country as the western US National Park continues to suffer from drought. Is shaped.

Everglades National Park in southern Floridais disappearing due to sea level riseVast wetlands are rampant as well as sea level rise Therefore, it is now half the original size for urban development.

National Park Service researchers have observed water level rises in some inland freshwater areas of the Everglades over the last 50 years, at a pace comparable to the pace of sea rise in the region.

The park has also been hit by severe hurricanes in recent years. With 1.5 million acres of mangrove, wetlands and high-altitude forests, the Everglades are an important buffer to absorb the rage of tropical storms. Hurricane Irma struck the area in 2017, andEverglades took much of the storm's wrathand protected the inland community.

But scientists warn that the barrier will not exist for much longer. Due to the dramatic changes seen in US national parks, Dickman said climate-friendly choices should be made to help people preserve the landscape for future generations.

"American history is depicted [in these parks]. It protects some of the finest landscapes on the planet, from the good to the bad of our history." Dickman said. "I've traveled the globe, but it's harder to get to more beautiful places than American national parks, and the next generation has the ability to experience these places like us."