Western Glacier StoneflyLatin name: Zapada Glacier,
Conservsation status: vulnerable (population is decreasing)
One of 3,500 species of Stoneflies, this rare insect breeds in only a few cold water streams immediately below melting glaciers or next to permanent snowfields in Glacier National Park, USA.
Since 1960, the average summer temperature in Glacier National Park has increased by around 1 °C and glaciers have declined by 35%. By counting Stoneflies, scientists can determine how quickly glaciers are melting and the temperature of streams. In a two year search begun in 2011, scientists found the Stonefly in only one of the six streams it had previously occupied and discovered that it had retreated to two different streams at higher altitudes. Satellite data confirm that the world’s glaciers are declining, affecting the availability of fresh water for humans, animals and plants, and contributing to sea level rise.
Other animals at risk
The Shenandoah Salamander lives in an isolated, high altitude region of Shenandoah National Park, USA. Like all amphibians who have thin, permeable skin, salamanders are very sensitive to environmental changes. If average temperatures or moisture increase, this salamander, restricted to its cool micro-climate, will be at risk—having no place to go but to lower, even warmer, altitudes. If warming causes other species of lower altitude salamanders to migrate higher, they will compete for the Shenandoah's cool, moist habitats.
Belugas live in Arctic and Sub-Arctic waters. Impacts from climate change include: an increase in ship traffic as sea ice declines, oil exploration and extraction, fisheries by-catch, and disruption of the food web. As Arctic waters warm and currents change, the Humpback (a competitor) and the Orca (a predator) may move north and stay longer. Some Beluga populations are also threatened by hunting, pollution and habitat loss.
The Narwhal lives mainly in the Atlantic Arctic. Because of specialized habitat, narrow range and limited diet (Arctic cod and halibut), it is one of the Arctic species most vulnerable to climate change. The Narwhal breeds in bays and fjords, moving offshore during winter to areas of heavy ice pack, breathing through the few cracks. Sudden or extreme temperature change can cause these cracks to freeze shut, trapping the whales. Other threats are illegal hunting, industrial activities, and risks from oil development, exploration and shipping in the Arctic.
Ivory Gulls are almost entirely dependent on sea ice and glaciers for nesting and food foraging. They feed on fish and shellfish that thrive near the edge of the ice, and on the remains of seals left by Polar Bears. Seal blubber is a source of heavy contaminants—Ivory Gull eggs show a higher concentration of mercury and pesticides than any Arctic sea bird. Other threats are illegal hunting and disturbance from diamond mining in the Canadian Arctic.