(Photo credit: David Iliff / Wikipedia)

At the Indiana Dunes National Park, visitors hope to glimpse the Karner blue butterfly. At Yosemite, they look for the American pika. But these and other species are at risk as climate changes hits national parks.

“Human-caused climate change exposes the U.S. national parks more severely to heat and aridity than the country as a whole,” says Patrick Gonzalez of the University of California, Berkeley.

He says that since 1895, temperature in the parks has increased at double the national rate.

“The hotter and drier conditions in national parks occur because vast areas of the parks are located in extreme environments – the Arctic, high mountains, and the arid Southwest,” he says.

The rapid warming can destroy important habitat for plants and animals, but reducing carbon pollution can help. Gonzalez’s research shows that swift action could reduce the expected heat increase in national parks by up to two-thirds.

“The U.S. national parks protect some of the most irreplaceable natural areas and cultural sites in the world,” he says. “Cutting carbon pollution would reduce human caused climate change and help save our national parks for future generations.”

Reporting credit: Stephanie Manuzak/ChavoBart Digital Media.