So I haven’t ran any research reviews in the past several months, and I figure one here and again will break up the stream of consciousness that is my bear hunt. I decided to start off with a very tame topic, without partisan-alignments, and something that everyone can agree upon….err, maybe not.
Bottom line, and I’m not going to debate climate change past this paragraph, is that our earth’s long-term temperature averages are rising. Fact. Call it a warm spell, climate change, global warming, blame it on us, blame it on China, I don’t care.
It’s easy to distance ourselves from this phenomenon and leave it to big thinkers in country and global circles, but our slowly-changing climate is having a BIG impact on our wildlife – many species that we passionately chase each fall with a gun and each spring and summer with angling equipment. Their populations and their habitats ARE being affected. Here’s a short list of some of those specific instances. Hopefully it will spur you to think about your own views on the subject, for better or worse.
***In the Southeastern United States’ Smoky Mountains, massive loss of hemlock forests due to the invasive hemlock woolly adelgid and increasing summer temperatures have led to micro-habitat changes along and in mountain streams. Trout, being a temperature-sensitive species, have suffered range contractions as shade has disappeared through the die-out of hemlock compounded by already warming temperatures.
***At high elevations in mountainous alpine habitats, trees are encroaching on “above timberline” meadows and crowding critters that are obligate (they have to live there) alpine species. Mountain goats, marmots, pikas, and more.
***Warmer temperatures mean less snow, less snowpack, more rain, shorter snowmelt, longer summer droughts, peak runoff earlier in the year, more extreme precipitation habitats – you don’t have to be a hydrologist to realize that comprises some pretty serious alterations to water systems in the West.
***A greater proportion of waterfowl and songbirds are adopting resident habitats in lieu of traditional migratory behaviors that carry the birds from summering to wintering grounds and back again. This straps already scarce resources with increased burden…just think of what the snow geese are able to do in the tundra now…
Again, call the change in temperature whatever you like, but these are real changes that have been happening over the last several decades. These statements are based on many studies that have stood the test of science and peer review.
I’ll stop the post here, but I’ve got another list of potential impacts of climate change on some of our more beloved game species in the next post…white-tailed deer, moose, elk, and black bear to name a few.