Feds Say Melting Glaciers Are Putting Insects in Peril

(CN) – In about 10 years the glaciers of Glacier National Park will be gone, scientists predict. They may take with them species that rely on clear, cold water, such as the meltwater lednian stonefly and western glacier stonefly – both listed by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service on Thursday as threatened under the Endangered Species Act.

The western glacier stonefly. (U.S. Fish and Wildlife photo)

Meltwater lednian stoneflies are found in northwest Montana and southwest Alberta, including Glacier National Park and Waterton Lakes National Park. According to the ESA listing in the Federal Register, western glacier stoneflies are found in 16 streams in the northern Rocky Mountains – six streams in Glacier National Park, four in Grand Teton National Park and six in the Absaroka/Beartooth Wilderness of Montana.

Researchers with the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service said habitat fragmentation and declining stream flows have affected the two species. According to Thursday’s ESA listing, most glaciers supplying cold water to meltwater lednian and western glacier stonefly habitats in Glacier National Park are projected to melt by the year 2030.

Thursday’s report said Glacier National Park has only about 25 large glaciers remaining out of the approximately 150 that were in the park when it was founded in 1910.

Drought caused by climate change is expected to further reduce the species’ habitat, according to the listing. Habitats for the species originate in meltwater sources like glaciers, the report said, and any projected warming on glaciers, icefields and snowpacks will affect them.

Climate change is increasing air temperatures faster in the western United States, according to the report. In the Pacific Northwest, average regional temperatures have risen as much as 4 degrees Fahrenheit in some areas, and are projected to increase 3 to 10 degrees over the next 100 years, according to Thursday’s report.

These two species’ decline – and the disappearing glaciers of Glacier National Park – reflect that changing climate, according to Noah Greenwald, endangered species director at the Center for Biological Diversity.

“As go the glaciers of Glacier National Park, so go these two unique stoneflies,” Greenwald said. “Global warming is changing the face of the planet before our eyes, and like these two stoneflies, many species are seeing their habitats disappear.”

Meltwater stonefly. (Photo courtesy Joe Giersch / U.S.Geological Survey)
%d bloggers like this: