This week the National Parks Service turns 100 years old, and it’s a good time to reflect on the organization’s genuine dedication and hard work to preserve land and monuments across the U.S. But now US national parks are facing the biggest threat of all: climate change. Melting glaciers, wildfires, erosion, and rising sea levels are just some of the mammoth effects that will likely bring an end to these national gems as we all know them.
The NPS has charted the toll climate change has had on its 412 protected parks and monuments all over the nation, according to The Guardian. Alaska is especially hard-hit, due to 80 percent of the state hiding permafrost under the surface. The Arctic is the fastest warming region on Earth, causing sinkholes and landslides when the permafrost melts. Coastal regions have been hammered by severe storms, wind erosion, and rising sea levels. Towns with generations-long histories have even elected to relocate due to the imposing global warming effects.
In the southern states weather patterns have been destroying pieces of history. Arizona’s Tumacácori National Historical Park suffered the intense rain-induced collapse of two historic structures made from adobe clay. Lauren Meyer from the NPS stated, “For the more vulnerable sites, particularly adobe structures which seem to be the canaries in the coal mine in the south-western US, losses are already rapidly occurring.”
Everything threatening the parks seems to be traced back to warmer temperatures. A glimpse of the rampant wildfires in the last few years confirms this, as does the fact that tree species are dying out, causing a ripple effect in the wildlife that relies on them for food and shelter. 40 national parks are threatened by a one meter rise in sea level, which NPS calls “one of the most obvious and most challenging impacts” of climate change.
Sally Jewell, NPS’ secretary of the interior described a dystopian vision of parks becoming “Isolated islands of conservation with run-down facilities that crowds of Americans visit like zoos to catch a glimpse of our nation’s remaining wildlife and undeveloped patches of land.”
Via The Guardian