Western Glacier StoneflyLatin name: Zapada Glacier,
Conservsation status: vulnerable (population is decreasing)
One of 3,500 species of Stoneflies, this rare insect breeds in only a few cold water streams immediately below melting glaciers or next to permanent snowfields in Glacier National Park, USA.
Since 1960, the average summer temperature in Glacier National Park has increased by around 1 °C and glaciers have declined by 35%. By counting Stoneflies, scientists can determine how quickly glaciers are melting and the temperature of streams. In a two year search begun in 2011, scientists found the Stonefly in only one of the six streams it had previously occupied and discovered that it had retreated to two different streams at higher altitudes. Satellite data confirm that the world’s glaciers are declining, affecting the availability of fresh water for humans, animals and plants, and contributing to sea level rise.
Other animals at risk
The Shenandoah Salamander lives in an isolated, high altitude region of Shenandoah National Park, USA. Like all amphibians who have thin, permeable skin, salamanders are very sensitive to environmental changes. If average temperatures or moisture increase, this salamander, restricted to its cool micro-climate, will be at risk—having no place to go but to lower, even warmer, altitudes. If warming causes other species of lower altitude salamanders to migrate higher, they will compete for the Shenandoah's cool, moist habitats.
The breeding habitat of Bicknell's Thrush is primarily restricted to mountain spruce forests of Northeastern US and Canada. They winter in the Caribbean and spring migration north is cued by day length. If spring arrives early in the north and the Thrushes arrive at their normal time, the abundance of food—insects and fruit—would already have peaked. Warming temperatures also produce an abundance of spruce and fir cones—feeding and increasing the population of Red Squirrels, a main predator of eggs and chicks. Storms and hurricanes threaten the Thrush's tropical winter habitat. Pollution, logging and deforestation threaten their spring breeding and winter habitats.
Belugas live in Arctic and Sub-Arctic waters. Impacts from climate change include: an increase in ship traffic as sea ice declines, oil exploration and extraction, fisheries by-catch, and disruption of the food web. As Arctic waters warm and currents change, the Humpback (a competitor) and the Orca (a predator) may move north and stay longer. Some Beluga populations are also threatened by hunting, pollution and habitat loss.
American pikas occupy talus—rock piles that accumulate at the base of a slope—at high elevations in western mountains. Pikas are thought to be a prime example of the potential effects of climate change because they are sensitive to warm temperatures and rely on insulation provided by snow to survive cold winter temperatures. However, several recent studies indicate that pikas can be resilient to each of these factors. Most pikas in the Sierra Nevada survived the winter of 2014, when there was almost no snowpack. Pikas persist in many hot localities as well, demonstrating their ability to cope with high temperatures.