A new report released this week by the Natural Resources Defense Council and the Rocky Mountain Climate Organization shows how National Parks in the Great Lakes region are already suffering from the impacts of climate disruption, and are set to suffer more. The report, Great Lakes National Parks in Peril: The Threats of Climate Disruption, focuses on the five largest Parks on the Great Lakes.
The five major impacts seen from the study were higher temperatures, less winter ice cover, erosion of shorelines and dunes, loss of wildlife, and loss of birds. Some of these impacts occurred at Isle Royale National Park in Lake Superior, including major population declines for the moose (down almost 50 percent) and wolves, and the first known appearance of the tick that causes Lyme disease in the park, which previously had not spread that far north because of cool temperatures. Higher temperatures have also contributed to botulism outbreaks and thousands of bird deaths at Sleeping Bear Sand Dunes National Park, and a 15 percent decrease in winter ice cover on the lakes between the 1970′s and 2009. The report predicts a 3.6 to 4.6 degree average temperature increase by 2040 to 2069 at Isle Royale and Apostle Islands if carbon emissions continue at their current rate.
The Star Tribune and Pioneer Press both published stories highlighting the report’s findings and the future potential impacts, including the economic impacts that will be felt by local communities that rely on the Parks. From the Star Tribune:
‘The authors said that the five parks in the study draw 3.7 million visitors per year, generate $200 million in spending and support close to 3,000 jobs. “We face the financial reality that climate change may bring tremendous economic challenge,” said Larry McDonald, the mayor of Bayfield, Wis., a tourist town on the edge of the Apostle Islands. He joined the authors of the report in a telephone news conference. “We need to respect and protect Lake Superior,” he said.’
The report stresses the need for immediate action to mitigate climate change in order to decrease the negative impacts to the Great Lakes region.