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See them now: US National Parks threatened by climate change

Joshua trees could face extinction if temperatures continue to rise.
Joshua trees could face extinction if temperatures continue to rise.
Alyssa Brode

By now, we know that the effects of global warming are far greater than rising temperatures. But what kind of implications does this have for our treasured national parks? These parks are among those that will soon begin to suffer from climate change, if they aren’t already, so make your plans to see them before some of these natural wonders are gone!

Mesa Verde National Park, Colorado
Due to rising temperatures and the semi-arid climate at Mesa Verde National Park, the past decade has seen a sharp increase in major wildfires occurring there. The fires threaten the archaeological preserve in the park, the largest such preserve in the country, and pose a threat to visitors’ safety as well.

Glacier National Park, Montana
While some parks have suffered from indirect effects of global warming, Glacier National Park’s losses are direct results of rising temperatures. As of 2010, the park contained just 25 of its original 150+ glaciers. Some scientists predict that most of the major glaciers in the park will disappear by 2030; more aggressive climate change predictions suggest that by the same year, the park will have no glaciers at all. Natural glacial melt is crucial to the regulation of water temperatures throughout the park. Water-dwelling creatures in the park, some already threatened, could face changes in the food chain and perhaps extinction without the existence of the glaciers on which they rely.

Everglades National Park, Florida
Recent drought conditions are causing parts of the Everglades to lose their necessary layer of peat. Without it, these freshwater wetlands are susceptible to saltwater incursion. Dry periods are also causing grasses in the Everglades to dry out, increasing the likelihood of wildfires in the area. The drying grasses also alter the habitats for many creatures such as various wading birds.

Joshua Tree National Park, California
The crown jewel of this national park is the abundance of Joshua trees, the park’s namesake. These trees thrive in a very precise desert environment, relying on freezing temperatures to flower and reproduce. Global warming has already taken its toll on these trees, and continued warming may mean extinction in the future. As habitats within the park change, animal species could be affected as well.

This list is tragically far from all-encompassing. According to Stephanie Kodish of the National Parks Conservation Association, “everything in the parks is affected by climate change.” The danger is increasingly present in all of our national parks, and the effects will only grow if current environmental trends continue.