Working Together To Protect Wildlife

Global warming is a problem that can be solved if all people work together. The following list provides some ways to work together to support global solutions to a global problem:

• Make contact with elected officials: Request that they support research and legislation that is designed to improve fuel efficiency standards and strengthens land manager and owners' ability to protect wildlife threatened by global warming.

• retire your car: At least leave it home one day a week. Every gallon of gas saved keeps 20 pounds of CO2 out of the atmosphere.

• Buy good wood: use Forest Stewardship Council (FSC) logos on wood products. FSC makes sure trees are grown and harvested in a way that protects wildlife and soil quality.

• Buy organic and buy local: Chemical fertilizers and insecticides, as well as transportation and production costs, require the use of excessive amounts of energy.

• Coordinate an activist event: Visit wildlife refuges, zoos, and parks. Get together with friends to discuss global warming, or even watch a movie such as An Inconvenient Truth.

There are several ways global warming is affecting various species of wildlife, which is why the National Wildlife Federation considers global warming to be "the most dangerous threat to the future of wildlife."

There are several species in peril as temperatures rise in the Arctic. Mosquitoes multiply at a rapid rate and expand their habitat farther northward. As the caribou spend more time and energy evading the pests, they are decreasing the amount of food that they eat and energy they conserve in preparation for the coming winter months. This particularly puts the females at risk, taking the energy from them necessary to raise their young.

• Write a letter to the editor of your local newspaper: Raise awareness in the media and the public by highlighting global warming, wildlife, and habitat in your local paper.

• Volunteer for wildlife: Participate in volunteer activities with local, state, or federal land and wildlife management agencies, universities, and other groups.

• reach out to your community: Allow organizations to assist in taking a stand. Take a wildlife protection message to organizations and events in the community.

• Welcome wildlife into your garden: Create habitat by planting native plants.

• Light bulbs, thermostats, and washing machines matter: reduce annual CO2 emissions by using compact fluorescent bulbs, cold water to wash clothes, and lower your heating thermostats two-degrees.

• Speak out for better fuel economy standards: The united States could cut emissions by 600 million tons per year if vehicles averaged 40 miles per gallon.

• Buy Green Power: Check DOE's green pricing page to locate local options of purchasing green power.

Source: Defenders of Wildlife

The monarch butterfly is another species in peril. In the summer, they migrate as far north as Canada, in the winter as far south as Mexico City. In 2002, there was a mass die-off of these butterflies because of a change in climate. Scientists worry that as temperatures and precipitation patterns continue to change, more die-offs will occur. Migratory songbirds, which are also extremely sensitive to changes in temperature, may also be in peril as their habitats change.

North American trout and other coldwater fish depend on extremely cold spring meltwater for their survival, but as temperatures continue to rise in North America, 75 percent of their natural habitat is at risk. Coral reefs do not fare much better. These colorful under water ecosystems are extremely fragile. As ocean temperatures climb, the corals become bleached and die off. The die-off is not specific to one location, either. In fact, nearly 16 percent of the world's reefs were destroyed in less than a 12-month period. The increase in temperature does not even need to be drastic; an increase of 1.7°F (1°C) is enough to cause coral die-off.

According to the National Wildlife Federation, high-mountain species are particularly vulnerable to the effects of global warming. As climate conditions change and habitats move upward in elevation, those species living in habitats already at the highest elevations are pushed upward with no place to go. The pika is one example of this found in the North American Rocky Mountains. Pikas are potato-size herbivores that inhabit the mountaintops. A member of the rabbit family, they live their entire lives in the alpine regions of mountaintops. A hearty species, able to survive the most severe weather conditions during the intense Rocky Mountain winters, biologists such as Chris Ray at the University of Colorado fear that these resilient creatures may not survive global warming. Unlike other species that are currently shifting their ranges north in latitude or higher in elevation on mountains in response to climate change, the pika have nowhere else to go. In fact, according to Ray, in some areas entire pika populations have already disappeared.

In Rocky Mountain National Park, which has more than 100 square miles (259 km2) of alpine habitat, researchers at Colorado State University estimate that the tree line there would rise 1,200 feet (366 m), eliminating half of the park's tundra if temperatures warm by 5°F (3°C). Even now, trees are already migrating to higher elevations. A study published in the Western North American Naturalist in July 2005 determined that the low-elevation Engelmann spruce, which lives in the subalpine zone, has already migrated 575-650 feet (175-198 m) upslope in three of four watersheds that were studied in Nevada's Great Basin National Park between 1992 and 2001.

The alpine wildlife that inhabits the highest reaches is especially vulnerable to the disastrous effects of global warming. They are especially vulnerable to changes in vegetation, the invasion of new predators and pests, reduced winter snowpack, and increases in severe weather. In the case of pikas, they are especially vulnerable to excessive heat.

Accustomed to cool temperatures, they inhabit the cool, wet talus (rock rubble) at the bases of mountains during the summer. As the climate warms, the pika are expected to move upward in elevation, looking for cooler places to stay, until there is nowhere else left to ascend.

According to Barry Rosenbaum, a Colorado College alpine mam-malogist, "All other mammal species in continental North America have greater heat tolerances." He is currently studying the pika on Colorado's Niwot Ridge.

Erik Beever, a biologist with the National Park Service, is studying the pikas in the Great Basin region—the arid region between the Rocky Mountains and the Sierra Nevada. He says, "The mammals have recently disappeared from 8 of 25 mountainous locations where they were documented in the early 1900s." He says that the die-off indicates

Animals That Begin With

The pika is one animal that is already feeling the negative effects of global warming: Its habitat is being eradicated at the mountaintops as other species migrate in. (U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service)

that suitable habitat is shrinking. To support the global warming as a cause, the most recent pika losses occurred at the warmer, southern end of the animal's range.

Beever remarks, "This is what you would expect from rising temperatures—a loss at the margins of their distribution. The finding represents one of the first contemporary examples of a North American mammal exhibiting a rapid shift in distribution due to climate."

Chris Ray refers to the situation as "the proverbial canary in a coal mine. It is a warning that global warming is upon us now."

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