Imagine a world where the number of mountain meadows, filled with wildflowers shrinks rapidly. Disappearing snowpack and longer growing seasons not only allow trees to invade these precious alpine ecosystems in this place.
But it also is warming streams and reducing flows to make them less favorale for trout and other native aquatic species. This place, as you probably guessed, is the Pacific Northwest and these rapid changes have been documented by scientists from Oregon State University and federal agencies.
A recent analysis of a subalpine meadow complex in the central Oregon Cascade Range, found tree occupation rose from 8 percent in 1950 to 35 percent in 2007. Another study released last week found that in 22 “minimally human-influenced” streams across the region, including Idaho temperature rose and flows late in the season dropped significantly since 1950.
These two studies are just the latest signs of how our world already is changing due to the warming of the Earth. The stream studies showed the rivers were more complex than scientists initially thought, affected in part by groundwater levels.
But like many of these trends scientific studies are give managers the first level of he tools they will need to help adapt management to these changes, which will continue no matter what actions are taken to halt or revere climate change.