MACRO Change for Macro Invertebrates

by: Simon Jolly

Grinnell Glacier, 1926

Credit: Morton Elrod

Grinnell Glacier, 2019

As the effects of climate change come to the fore, biodiversity will be one of the areas that are hardest hit.

There are a variety of organisms which are reliant on streams originating from glaciers and snowpacks.

Particularly, macro invertebrates in alpine and sub alpine streams have become threatened by the changing climate.

L. tumana and Z. glacier are two alpine insects which thrive in these environments.

There is a small temperature range in which they are able to survive.

The subalpine mountain snail is a species native to Northwest Montana which lives along streams as well.

While it currently enjoys relative abundance, it could easily become endangered as its habitat is altered.

As the global climate warms, there are becoming less and less habitats for these organisms to inhabit.

Populations are becoming more isolated, leading to decreased genetic diversity.

Climate change has prompted genetic bottlenecking with populations decreasing in size and becoming more separated. Alleles have less of an opportunity to be exchanged across populations.

Glacier National Park and other public lands host the last refuge for many endangered species in such environments.

The USGS and partners are working to get L. tumana and Z. glacier listed as endangered species.

However, political roadblocks have stopped significant progress on this front.

Climate change and politics are inevitably intertwined.

It is important to protect biodiversity through channels like the Endangered Species Act.

Climate change poses a threat to all living organisms on planet Earth...

and it is up to us to save macro invertebrates in alpine and subalpine environments through substantive change.

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