Glacier National Park in Montana is often a poster child for global warming because its retreating glaciers provide dramatic evidence that temperatures are rising. But Melissa Sladek of the National Park Service says there are also less obvious impacts.

Glacier National Park

Sladek: “It’s not just receding glaciers that climate change is affecting, it’s much more.”

When glacial ice melts slowly throughout the summer, it helps regulate the temperature of streams. But as glaciers disappear, so does this natural thermostat.

Sladek: “We have concerns with our watershed in terms of changes in water temperature and how that might affect native species – everything from small aquatic organisms to our native fish.”

Many species can move north to adapt to a warming climate, but Sladek is concerned about alpine species like mountain goats, pikas, and ptarmigans.

Sladek: “If they’re already living at the top of a mountain, there’s not a lot higher to go.”

To raise awareness about the diverse impacts of climate change, the park is hosting a traveling art quilt exhibit through mid-September. By portraying everything from at-risk species to wildfires, the artwork underscores that melting glaciers are just the tip of the iceberg.

Reporting credit: ChavoBart Digital Media.
Photo: Glacier National Park. Copyright protected.

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Bud Ward was editor of Yale Climate Connections from 2007-2022. He started his environmental journalism career in 1974. He later served as assistant director of the U.S. Congress's National Commission...