The Ever-changing Yellow Stone National Park
The Ever-changing Yellow Stone National Park
National parks are some of the most protected areas on the earth; however, much like other areas on earth, they are not immune to the effects of climate change. Further, the rich biodiversity that exists in national parks makes them particularly vulnerable to impacts from climate changes. The Yellowstone National Park is of prime importance to their entire nation, and indeed to the entire globe for its pristine and scenic environments and a rich biodiversity. However, in recent years, the national park has experienced significant threats from climate change and the extreme weather patterns that have contributed to an ever-changing face of the Yellowstone national park (Burns, Johnston and Schmitz, 2003).
The continued increase in emissions of heat-trapping gases and a disrupted climate changes have a potential to cause severe damages to the national park. The climate is the average variability of various categories of weather patterns over a period, and with thirty years being the normal period used in measurements. However, short of long periods have been used in the past. In addition, the term climate change may then refer to changes in the average variability of other measures of climate such as, precipitation and temperature, and which persists for a long period, normally they may extend for decades or even longer, and the contributing agents may be human activity or plainly natural variability, or even a combination of these agents.
Numerous numbers of weather and climate model forecasting have been authenticated by the field data that were collected from numerous weather stations all over the globe (Hannah et al, 2002). In the year 2015, the actual data seem to surpass the initial forecasts of the rates of change in the environment. Greenhouse gas emission such as methane and carbon dioxide seem to be the biggest variables in the models. Emissions from human activities and other indirect and direct sources lead to global warming as well as acidification of the ocean, impacts public health, loss of habitat, and amongst other regional and global climate change outcomes. This paper presents examines the climate change problem and how it affects the Yellowstone National Park.
Impacts on the Yellowstone
In the Yellowstone National Park, the impacts of the climate change seem to appear, and there are reports from the park’s snowpack levels, temperature recorded at different elevated points, fire events, the growth of plants, sources of water, fire events, soil conditions, and the production of pollen (Millspaugh, Whitlock and Bartlein, 2000). Others include impacts on the biodiversity and various other factors that measure climate changes contributions to life shifts in growths including migrations and geological and geographic transformations.
Consistent information available indicates that the temperature on the Yellowstone National Park shall rise over the next one hundred years; however, the character of precipitation shall remain a difficult one to forecast (Woodward, 2002). The park shall experience changes in the composition of life throughout the expansive area.
Yellowstone National Park has been hailed as the first national park in the globe, and it was the first to be established all over the globe. The national park was specifically created because of the geothermal wonders it harbors deep within it, and it has been globe’s highly active, intact, yet diverse collection of hydrological, geothermal and geological features and structures, and this underscores the preeminent volcanic activity that has sustained its wonders (Ripple and Larsen, 2000). The park sits at the center of a great ecosystem in Yellowstone, and the ecosystem is probably the last, yet large intact and natural one existing n the temperate zone of the globe. The ecosystem has preserved an impressive number of and concentration of microbial, terrestrial and aquatic life (Logan, Macfarlane and Willcox, 2010). Natural systems interact within an ecological context, which has been subject to a lower extent to human interference than other places in the country. This has made the park be an invaluable natural treasure and a store of information that is important to humanity. Further, the park harbors authentic and comparatively unspoiled properly nature established cultural resources that have span more than 11 millennia (Pierce, Meyer, and Jull, 2004).
The climate in Yellowstone National Park is changing fast, and it has been one of the major impetuses for the processes that have made the Park’s Ecosystem to function has it has functioned for thousands of years. The weather provides a reflection of the short-term climatic patterns of the atmosphere within the park; on the other hand, climate comprises the long-term mean of the day to day weather complied in a thirty-year period (Ripple and Larsen, 2000). It should be noted that a change in climate could have an immense effect on an ecosystem. The park ecosystem and climate have been a subject of intense academic research for several decades. Current research findings continue to indicate that the Park’s climatic conditions and ecosystem shall have the influence on the biodiversity of the park for ages.
Summary Documented Climatic Conditions Affecting the Park
The mean temperature in the Yellow Stone Park has been very high compared to estimates recorded half a century ago. Similarly, temperatures during nighttime at the park have been documented to be in the upsurge compared to temperatures during the day. In the last half a century, the growing season, which is actually the time between the final freeze of the spring and the initial freeze of fall, has been recorded to be increasing by approximately thirty days in certain areas of the vast park. At the Northern East entrance of the vast Park, there are presently eighty more days annually that is above freezing compared to the records documented in 1960s (McMenamin, Hadly and Wright, 2008). In the present, there are thirty fewer days per annum of snow on the ground compared to the 1960s.
The continued upsurge in temperature in the park has a fundamental effect on the Park’s ecosystem. The increasing temperature shall have a likely effect on the composition and biodiversity of aquatic, microbial and terrestrial life in the park (Westerling et al, 2011). Secondly, it will alter the extent and timing of the spring snowmelt on the park, and which shall affect the water levels as well as vegetation growth, the movement of the park’s wildlife, as well as the commercial and residential activities of men on the downstream rivers from the park. Finally, the rising temperature shall lead to frequent frequencies of fire, which can be coupled with a longer length of the season.
The connection between biodiversity and climate is one that was established several years ago (Bartlein, Whitlock and Shafer, 1997). Even though the history of the Earth is one in which climate has always had an impact on the ecosystems and new species and extinction of others, the rapid climate change has a general effect on the ability of species to adapt and the ecosystem, and hence the increase in the loss of biodiversity. From a selfish human perspective, a rapid change in the climate, which leads to the fast loss of the biodiversity, affects medicine, food and water security for human beings, for instance, a river may disappear or even a salmon may be wiped out. Already, the changes in climate have had an impact on current biodiversity, and there is a given level of projections that they will even become increasingly bigger threats in the future (Gray, Graumlich and Betancourt, 2007). The increasing temperature threatens biodiversity across a whole biome and even beyond.
The rapid climate change can lead to at least four different predictions on the future of the Yellowstone National Park ecosystem. First, there can be a dry yet warm conditions in which the both the temperature and potential evapotranspiration (PET) increase, these two then causes a fall in precipitation, or it stagnates, then the efficiency of water use by plants increase, albeit slightly, and these forces plants to endure high temperatures as well as more carbon dioxide and drought. Second, a middle ground conditions where PET and temperature rise, while there is a fall in precipitation, or it may remain constant, but the efficiency of water use by plants increase significantly to offset for the high PET, and these forces plants to high temperatures and carbon dioxide, although there is no drought (Romme et al, 2005). Third, conditions that are both wet and warm, and both the temperature and carbon dioxide are on the upsurge, and precipitation also rise, and the efficiency of water use by plants also experience significant increase, and plants are forced to high levels of temperature and carbon dioxide, which decreases drought (Mao et al, 2005).
Analysis of A Warm and Dry Persistent Climate on the Biodiversity of the Park
The likely impacts of dry and warm conditions coupled with negligible physiological costs can be summarized in the following format (Turner et al, 1994). Increased temperature can lead to increased growing season at the upper timberline, which would consequently lead to an upward shift leading to a fall in the total forested area, increased the frequency of fire, and changes to the predominantly young classes as well as the decrease are the alpine communities (Turner et al, 2004). The decrease of alpine communities shall adversely affect the decreased area as well as a large habitat disintegration for certain obligate species of alpine, and which include water pipit, rosy finch, and others, as well as extinctions of other native species (Meyer and Pierce, 2003). On the other hand, a decrease in the forested area will directly result in a increased habitat disintegration for certain obligate old-growth species of the forest such as the twin flower, orchids, marten, goshawk and others, and the local extinctions include the white bark, but the Douglas-fir growth can be spurred.
Middle Ground Conditions
The middle ground conditions are defined by a large compensating rise in the efficient use of water, and this is accompanied by an increase in temperature and a corresponding increasing in evapotranspiration, which in turn leads to reduced and unchanged precipitation (Wang et al, 2002). Climate and physiological transformations would lead to similar impacts as presented in the case above. This means that there would be an increase in the length of the growing season, and the upper timberline would extend even upwards, while the alpine zone would fall, and the local extinction of the obligate alpine species would happen. The extent of the whitebark pine would change to a high elevation zone, but occupy a small area (Meyer and Wellsi, 1992). On the other hand, the lower timberline would not be affected, as the outcomes of a high PET would offset by the rise in the efficiency of water use by plants. Hence, the range of elevation of Douglas fir may extend, as the plants’ upper zones are perhaps determined by the depth of snow and low temperatures, and these can reorganize in the situation, while the plants lower limits are then established by drought stress.
Warmer temperature shall lead to an upward change in the upper timberline, and a decrease in the region of the alpine zone, and then extinction of certain alpine communities and species (Balling Jr, Meyer, and Wells, 1992). The extent of the whitebark pine shall also move up in the higher elevation, but occupy a small area. The accompanying increase in precipitation with the high temperature would prevent the growth of species largely from increased competition. Moreover, the increased precipitation and efficiency of water use by plants would lead to the reduction of drought stress at low points in the ecosystem. This would make Douglas fir range to the extent not only upward, but also downward. The total area under forest would be on the rise as the region bordered by the upper timberline shifts downward, and data on pollen show that extension of subalpine forest down and up the slope occurred in the national park 5000 years ago, and it was perhaps, even more, warm and wet than the present conditions.
Ecosystems are already crumbling under the negative effects of the present intensities of climate change, and these seem modest when evaluated against future projected changes.
Climatic Changes, Fire and Changes in Biodiversity
Turner et al (1994) study examined climate change and its likely impacts on forests on the national park, and they used simulation models to investigate the landscape impacts of changed fire regimes. Climate changes affect fire regimes as well as the structure of the forests and its core role, plus carbon dioxide. The likelihood of widespread fires in the forest in the United States has risen in the past forty years, and this has been linked with warm weathers and the early snowmelt of spring. However, present climatic model forecasts imply that at the end of this century, climatic conditions much like those recorded and documented forty years ago, shall characterize close to the mean annual, and not exactly an extreme year (Wilmers and Getz, 2005). The impacts of the climate change of such immense proportion for the fire regime, carbon equilibrium and post-fire succession of the park’s ecosystem cannot be fully comprehended, are certainly unimaginable.
According to Logan, Macfarlane and Willcox (2010), there are widespread spaces of the mountain pine beetles that have occurred throughout the range of the local native insect. The primary host of the inset is the lodgepole pine, and in there have been documented common episodic outbreaks of the insects. However, the present outbreaks, which are climate-driven are occurring in habitats that high magnitudes and in places there were no outbreaks in the past. Logan Macfarlane and Willcox (2010) addressed a widespread and continuing outbreak of te insects in a high elevated point within the whitebark pine forest of the national park, which have in the past benefited from harsh weather. Hence, it is more likely that the outbreaks could have been by the climatic conditions, which have slowly been altering the national park. Logan, Macfarlane and Willcox (2010) relied on other evidence, which affirmed that the present outbreak of the insect is out of the historical variability range, further the resilience of the insect, having relied on adaptation to disturbance and defense of host to the attack from the insect, and finally investigation of the potential of large-scale insect impact.
Logan Macfarlane and Willcox (2010) concluded that the loss of main whitebark pine forests, and a further degradation of the ecological services that they offer, shall probably affect by the continuous climate changes. Hence, a new research and strategies must be collected to respond to the new crisis that is facing whitebark pine, and indeed the whole biodiversity of the national park.
It may be ironical that national parks are receiving increased attention due to the precarious bio-diverse nature they carry; they have not escaped the impacts of nature and human activity miles from where they are located. The Yellowstone National Park is ever changing, largely from the impacts of climate change. The continued increase in emissions of gases that trap heat can permanently alter the biodiversity of the national park. The emissions have been known to the significant driver of the earth climate conditions, and so far been the biggest blames for global warming. Ecosystems moderate climate was driven factors that control the availability and quality of water, a key ingredient that sustains a diverse nature of life in the park.
Ecosystems that are deemed as land-based perform regulation of the water cycle and are the origins of the sediments and other materials that form their way to be parts of the aquatic ecosystem such as the rivers and groundwater within the park. Moreover, ecosystem buffers the biodiversity against the effects of severe climatic conditions such as extreme temperatures, floods, wildfires and others.
Climate changes and human activities make landscapes and ecosystems to be more vulnerable to extensive damages from such severe conditions, and they reduce the natural capacity to adjust to the impacts of the events. At the Yellowstone National Park, increasing temperature can lead to a rise in acreage of different invasive plant species, and the cost of the invasive species can be overwhelming to the country. The impact of climatic changes on phenology, which is defined as a pattern of season life cycle activities in animals and plants, and which include blooming, migration, hibernation, and timing of leaf-out, shall alter the timing of such critical events in the life of both plants and animals. Animal and plant species that shall fail to adapt to the changes brought about by the climate changes shall be forced to go extinct, hence the concerned parties shall be forced to revise new conservatory management goals.
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