Climate change is emerging as one of the most profound ecological and social concerns of our time. As scientists continue to study global warming’s potential scope, the ecological axiom, ‘adapt, migrate, or die,’ takes on particular relevance and urgency. Many species will be forced down one of these three paths as they confront warming temperatures. Significantly, the Yellowstone to Yukon region is one of the world’s few remaining areas with the geographic variety and biological diversity to accommodate the wide-scale adaptive responses that might allow whole populations of animals and plants to survive.However, even now, climate-induced changes are affecting wildlife species in the region. North American Red Squirrels experiencing warmer spring temperatures and a corresponding increase in available food are adapting by reproducing earlier in the year. Large animals with specific and extensive needs, such as grizzly bears, are at particular risk. In both the Greater Yellowstone Ecosystem and Crown of the Continent, whitebark pine trees, which produce a nut that is a key source of food for grizzlies, are being decimated by a blister rust that will spread even more widely and get more deadly as the climate continues to warm. Situations such as this underscore the importance of maintaining connectivity so bears and other species can search out habitats that will support them.
With public dedication, activity, and involvement – especially in land use and community planning – humankind can meet the challenge of climate change. Together, the Y2Y Conservation Initiative and all our partners can play a critical role in meeting that challenge, by ensuring healthy and interconnected ecosystems for wildlife and people, today and into the future.
Y2Y is leading a continental group of climate experts in designing adaptation strategies for the Yellowstone to Yukon region. Learn more about this group here.
Find out more about how the Yellowstone to Yukon Conservation Initiative is preparing the region for climate adaptation here.
View a presentation by Dr. Lisa Graumlich, University of Arizona, to the WILD9 World Wilderness Congress in November 2009, about the role of the Yellowstone to Yukon Conservation Initiative in preparing the continent for climate adaptation to occur.