Ecosystems Endangered By Climate

Important. Thank you NRDC staffer.
From: Fallon, Sylvia

Wanted to make sure that you saw the report released yesterday by the Endangered Species Coalition identifying the top 10 ecosystems (with endangered species) that are threatened by climate. The Greater Yellowstone region made the list due to the devastating impacts of the mountain pine beetle on whitebark pine. Below is our release and a few links to our blogs on the topic.

Livingston, MT (January 5, 2011) – The Greater Yellowstone Ecosystem was named one of the top 10 places to save for wildlife on the brink of extinction, according to a new report released today by the Endangered Species Coalition and its member groups.

The importance of saving habitat for endangered species was highlighted in the report, It’s Getting Hot Out There: Top 10 Places to Save for Endangered Species in a Warming World. The report examines how the changing climate is increasing the risk of extinction for imperiled fish, plants, and wildlife, and the importance of protecting key ecosystems.

“Climate change is no longer a distant threat on the horizon,” said Leda Huta, executive director of the Endangered Species Coalition. “It has arrived and is threatening ecosystems that we all depend upon, and our endangered species are particularly vulnerable.”

Warming temperatures at high elevations have opened the door to mountain pine beetle infestations so severe that they threaten to make the whitebark pine trees functionally extinct in less than a decade. The tree is the foundation of the Greater Yellowstone ecosystem and had previously been protected by colder temperatures on the high alpine perch where they grow.

“As whitebark pine goes, so goes the GYE,” said Louisa Willcox, senior wildlife advocate for the Natural Resources Defense Council. “It is THE foundational species that everything else in the system relies upon—from wildlife, to the snowpack we rely on for drinking water. And climate change has already opened the door to more than 80% of our whitebark forests disappearing. Despite all the foot dragging in DC, we can already see the impact of climate change in the red trees taking over Montana, Wyoming, and Idaho.”

This report highlights ten ecosystems that are hotspots for threatened and endangered species, many of which are highly vulnerable to climate change now. Coalition members nominated the ecosystems for inclusion in the report, and the submissions were then reviewed and judged by a panel of scientists. For each ecosystem, the report identifies some of the endangered species that live there, as well as the necessary conservation measures that will be required to help them to survive.

According to the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), 20 to 30 percent of the world’s species will be at an increased risk of extinction if global temperature increases exceed 1.5 to 2.5° C (3 to 5° F) above pre-industrial levels. The climate threats to species include increased disease, diminished reproduction, lost habitat, reduced food supply, and other impacts.

Safeguarding Species in a Warming World

It’s Getting Hot Out There calls for the Obama Administration and Congress to provide the tools and resources necessary to protect these key ecosystems from global climate change. The Coalition would also like to see climate change factored into all future endangered species-related decisions in order to help prevent species from disappearing forever.

The whitebark pine tree’s predicament and the potential impact of its disappearance on the GYE have not been lost on wildlife managers. NRDC petitioned to have the tree added to the Endangered Species list in the United States in 2008. Last year, the US Fish and Wildlife Service put whitebark pine closer to being the first wide-ranging tree on the list with the decision that the science outlined in the petition merits further investigation. An Endangered Species listing would trigger a recovery plan for the species that would coordinate research and conservation efforts for the tree. Additionally, it should make more resources available for research on new tools to keep the threats at bay.

The top 10 ecosystems to save for endangered species featured in the report:

1. The Arctic Sea Ice, home to the polar bear, Pacific walrus and at least 6 species of seal.

2. Shallow Water Coral Reefs, home to the critically endangered elkhorn and staghorn coral.

3. The Hawaiian Islands, home to more than a dozen imperiled birds, and 319 threatened and endangered plants.

4. Southwest Deserts, home to numerous imperiled plants, fish, and mammals.

5. The San Francisco Bay-Delta, home to the imperiled Pacific salmon, Swainson’s hawk, tiger salamander and Delta smelt.

6. California Sierra Mountains, home to 30 native species of amphibian, including the Yellow-legged frog.

7. The Snake River Basin, home to four imperiled runs of salmon and steelhead.

8. Greater Yellowstone Ecosystem, home to the imperiled Whitebark pine, an important food source for animals, including the threatened Grizzly bear.

9. The Gulf Coast’s flatlands and wetlands, home to the Piping and Snowy plovers, Mississippi sandhill crane, and numerous species of sea turtles.

10. The Greater Everglades, home to 67 threatened and endangered species, including the manatee and the red cockcaded woodpecker.

The full report, which includes information on each ecosystem, as well as recommended conservation measures, is available online at

More information on whitebark pine in the Greater Yellowstone Ecosystem:

NRDC worked with the Forestry Service and some of the nation’s most noted academics to track the health of the region’s whitebark pine forests and produce the landmark report; Using the Landscape Assessment System (LAS) to Assess Mountain Pine Beetle-Caused Mortality of Whitebark Pine, Greater Yellowstone Ecosystem, 2009
Photos of whitebark pine, aerial surveys, and mortality maps are posted for viewing and download at
· NRDC Staff Scientist, Sylvia Fallon’s blog post on the report:

· NRDC wildlife advocate Whitney Leonard’s blog post on the report:

More information on the warming of the west can be found in NRDC’s report, Hotter and Drier: The West’s Changed Climate
OnEarth Magazine video: Whitebark Pine Endangered by Climate Change VIDEO: Whitebark Pine Endangered by Climate Change



One Response to “Ecosystems Endangered By Climate”

  1. Tree Breeding|Tree Breeds|Tree Species|Tree Types List|Tree Types Says:

    Tree Breeding|Tree Breeds|Tree Species|Tree Types List|Tree Types…

    […]Ecosystems Endangered By Climate « naturalistjourneys[…]…

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