#MapMonday: Field Guide to Climate Change

This MapMonday is about our Field Guide to Climate Change. Guest host Meg Evansen and Aimee Delach look at species already impacted by climate change

Check out the story map: dfnd.us/climatechangeguide

Click to view video transcript Meg: Hi everyone! Welcome back to another Map Monday!

My name is Meg Evansen, and I am the Conservation Science and Policy Analyst with our Center for Conservation Innovation.

In the past few weeks many of us have been staring at a map of the United States as our national election took place, but today we present a different map of our country - one that will be critical as we look forward to greater conservation strategy: our “Field Guide to Climate Change.”

There is overwhelming global scientific consensus that we are facing a Sixth Mass Extinction and that climate change is a significant driver of this biodiversity crisis. The effects of climate change include warmer temperatures, stronger storms, more intense droughts, as well as loss of ice and rising sea levels.

These effects can damage habitats, kill individuals outright, worsen disease and pest outbreaks, and lead to mismatches in the timing of key life cycle events.

This interactive story map features species from all over North America that are currently impacted by climate change or will be affected by climate change in the near future.

Species like the wood stork, for example, that make their home in the wetlands of Florida. One of the largest birds in North America, the wood stork is heavily dependent on marshy, wetland habitat. But steady wetland loss has caused a significant decline in the population of nesting wood storks, and these birds were officially listed as “endangered” in 1984. Thankfully, wood storks have rebounded in recent decades, and they’ve now been bumped from “endangered” to “threatened.” But this bird isn’t out of the proverbial woods - (err, wetlands) just yet - climate change is shifting the normal pattern of wet and dry seasons, which affects chick survival and can even cause adult birds to starve.

But there is good news - there’s still time to slow down climate change impacts on these species!

Defenders is working hard to advocate for habitat protections, renewable energy, and increased funding for programs to better understand and combat climate change.

Let’s turn to Aimee Delach, our Senior Policy Analyst for Climate Adaptation, for more information on why this work is so important.

Aimee: Thanks Meg!

What this story map shows is that climate change is not just a threat for the distant future or for halfway around the world. Climate change is here, it’s happening now, and it’s threatening species that we know and love all across the country.

Our Field Guide has profiled dozens of plant and animal species that are already experiencing these impacts.

Here are a few examples: As the northern Atlantic Ocean gets warmer, some of the small, cold-water fish that school in those waters are moving further north or into deeper waters.

Puffins, which nest on cliffs and islands along the Gulf of Maine, need those small fish to feed their chicks and have a much harder time successfully raising their chicks when those species move away.

Warmer, shorter winters have also enabled a profusion of pests across the country - including of tree-killing beetles in the West, as well as ticks in the East. Some moose in New England are so infested with blood-sucking ticks that they are literally dying of anemia.

Monarch butterfly populations have declined by over 95% over the past 30 years. Drought has killed the milkweed plants they rely on, and freak, out of season storms on their wintering grounds in Mexico have killed hundreds of millions of wintering individuals.

Many streams are also warming, through a combination of higher air temperatures, drought, and reduced snow pack and ice. This is dangerous for many salmon species, like the sockeye. In order to successfully spawn, salmon must travel upstream for hundreds of miles, an athletic feat that is made even more difficult because warmer water holds less oxygen.

We will continue to press the wildlife and land management agencies to fully account for threats from climate change to wildlife and their habitats, and to take appropriate action to face those threats.

Meg: Thanks, Aimee!

If you are interested in learning more about how climate change will affect imperiled wildlife, click on the link to explore the map.

Each point on the map includes a brief description of the climate impacts to these species and link to a fact sheet to learn more. At the top of the map, you can also click on the “Climate Change Impacts on Wildlife and Habitat” tab to home in on some of the major impacts of a warming world.

To see what Defenders is doing to combat climate change check out our website.

Thanks for tuning in! We look forward to seeing you next Map Monday!

Meg Evansen
Conservation Science and Policy Analyst

As the Conservation Science and Policy Analyst in the Center for Conservation Innovation at Defenders, Meg assists with the analysis of scientific research and policy implementation to find new and creative solutions for wildlife conservation.