So, that’s outside of the entire time that our genus has been on the planet, and for many other species, while they might’ve been around for a long period of time, they’ve slowly–over the last millions or hundreds of thousands of years–adapted to a set of conditions that are typical of what we see now. Recently, the temperature in the Arctic appears to have hit a new continental high, close to 70 degrees. Dr. David Hik[00:01:24]: Well, the Yukon is a remarkable place. Melting glaciers have many effects. Today, the main reason glaciers have begun to melt is because of human activity. We’re moving now into a climate state with warming that is being realized and predicted that is outside of the last 5 million years of Earth history. Ice is melting worldwide, especially at the Earth’s poles. But if you were someone who lived in the area, these would all be changes that you couldn’t help but notice either. So, every part of the world will be affected, and as a result, that just emphasizes to me that this is a global issue that needs a global response. That’s leading to continued melting of glaciers in the Arctic and around the world. Those are important changes. For instance, amphibians, the "tortoises" in this tortoise-and-a-hare race against climate change, seemed to die off much more than fast-moving animals, the hares, such as many birds. Much of his work has been in mountain regions, specifically the Yukon. Flying mammals also survived more on average: "If we split mammals into bats and nonflying mammals, bats behave kind of like the birds.". The Southwest Yukon is home to wild forests and big mountain peaks–the largest ice fields outside of the polar regions. For more than 30 years, Dr. Hik has been studying mountain regions and has seen firsthand the impact climate change has had. A new study of historic climate patterns suggests that, as our current world warms, slower-moving critters may go extinct in far greater numbers than their speedier counterparts. So, for example, about 20 percent of the surface area of those glaciers has been lost in the last 50 years, and it’s highly visible. And that has huge impacts on water that feeds the largest rivers in the world. Fresh Water Shortage The Effects of Melting Glaciers Risks Person Person Team Intro Since 1850, melting glaciers has always been a huge problem. Just four years ago, we had one of those big rivers that’s fed by the Kaskawulsh Glacier essentially divert from the Arctic Basin into the Pacific Basin. If temperatures keep rising, glaciers will continue melting, and some could disappear completely. Or if you’re a member of the press, set up an interview with Dr. David Hik or learn more about the topics he can speak to. Biodiversity loss and animals losing homes. Dr. David Hik [00:04:55]: Well, globally, glaciers are melting quite rapidly. Melting Glaciers and the Impact on Terrestrial Animals What is a melting glacier? Arctic marine fisheries … Below, listen to the conversation or read the transcript, and hear Dr. David Hik’s thoughts on: Enroll for free in his course Mountains 101 on Coursera. Their melting water flows into the soil which affects vegetation which acts as food for animals at lower altitudes, some of which are prey for other animals and so on. Or do you look at it as a domino effect? When glaciers melt, because that water is stored on land, the runoff significantly increases the amount of water in the ocean, contributing to global sea level rise. People have used this to try to determine if some habitats are at greater risk than others. Just recently, a study came out that modern plankton look so different than they did historically. Coursera [00:10:24]: And as we’re talking about ways that we as humans can adapt, I know we’re already starting to see how the world around us is already adapting plants, animals, et cetera. Melting glaciers also threaten the food supply. In Yukon, we’ve been able to do things like look at changes in the tree line or the shrub line. The opposite is true for mountainous regions. Dr. David Hik [00:17:25]: Well, many of the extinctions we’ve seen have been of large mammals, predators in some cases– species that haven’t gone extinct, but they’ve been lost from certain areas in the mountains. As the world warms, many species will once again be forced to flee, says Scott Loarie, a biogeographer at the Carnegie Institution for Science at Stanford University in Palo Alto, California, who coauthored the 2009 study. What kind of firsthand ways are you seeing climate change affect that area you know so well? Coursera [00:04:46]: Yeah. Coursera [00:03:44]: Yeah, It’s hard to talk about some of these issues without talking about all of the ways that they’re interconnected with the different ecosystems around. And in a number of places, they’re down to sort of the last five or six individuals, so they’re functionally extinct. In the Mountains, Climate Change Is Disrupting Everything, from How Water Flows to When Plants Flower. Because this is happening, X, Y, and Z are also going to happen?. Because of melting sea ice, ... Measurements showed those animals lost 10 percent or more of their body mass. But if rains dry up at the same time that temperatures increase, moisture-loving amphibians would need to move even faster to survive. Those same areas today host very few endemic mammals, birds, or amphibians—species that stick to one spot and one spot only, he and colleagues report online today in Science. To begin with, the climate is warming much faster today than it ever did following the Last Glacial Maximum. Glaciers are melting because the temperature across the globe has gone upward, helping the cause of ice glaciers melting faster than That’s a territory in Northwest Canada, near Alaska. This includes mountain glaciers, ice sheets … There’s some other predictors of extinction– habitat loss and fragmentation, susceptibility to invasive species or diseases or parasites. Take the American pika, which lives along mountains in the western United States: To get to cooler weather, all these squeaky critters need to do is climb a few hundred meters uphill. Glacial Melting Since glaciers are melting, many organisms are being affected. But in many ways, the biggest changes are the things that you see happening right in front of you, year after year as you return. Certain animals need the temperatures of glaciers for their daily activities. But, it is a landscape that I first visited in 1988. The melting of glaciers and loss of snow has a cascading effect … As you study glaciers melting, do you specifically look at that one issue? So, we really need to look at the commitments that the international community has made and find actions that will reduce those emissions–and try to stay within that safe space, where we won’t see a loss of glaciers, or we won’t see a loss of biodiversity or natural ecosystems. And the oceans are getting warmer. Some aquatic insects--fundamental components of the food web--are especially sensitive to stream temperature and cannot survive without the cooling effects of glacial meltwater. So, for example, that decrease in the lake level: that affects how people are able to go fishing, or in winter, to travel across the ice safely to trap lines. Every year, there’s more heat in the oceans, and this will contribute to an increase in sea level. Long migrations could have big consequences for conservation in the face of future climate change, Sandel says. All of these changes that we’ve been discussing underpinned our motivation for putting Mountains 101 together. We’ll start to notice that there’s species of fishes that have disappeared completely, from coral reefs as they disappear. But it’s a sort of intrinsic loss of beautiful things in nature that we will start to notice. Nearly 21,000 years ago, during what scientists call the Last Glacial Maximum, thick ice tracts swaddled much of North America and Europe. I don’t think people would notice a change in the ecosystem if caribou were lost from mountain environments. Where glaciers are melting into the ocean, they contribute to sea-level rise. AAAS is a partner of HINARI, AGORA, OARE, CHORUS, CLOCKSS, CrossRef and COUNTER. He points to Denmark as an example: This uniformly flat region doesn't host a single endemic mammal, bird, or amphibian. Glacial Melting Put Animals on the Run. The biggest and most notable impact of these glaciers melting is in the rise of sea level. In an interconnected world, we may all suffer impacts caused by melting ice elsewhere, and settlements may be affected by sea level rises in diverse and different ways. And the feedback that then has on global temperatures is equilibrating somewhere above 450, 550 parts per million, which could lead to warming of two and a half degrees by the end of this century. Emergency Preparedness: How Much Food & Water Per Person, Prof. Aptheker on Activism, Suffrage & Intersectional Feminism, Education in America: History, Purpose, Reform, and Access, Effects of glaciers melting on the environment and humans, What cities and countries will be most vulnerable to sea-level rise, How does climate change affect plants and animals, What happens to animals that cannot adapt to the changes in their environment, What is biodiversity and why it’s important. Coursera [00:07:10]: Can you talk through some of those ideas that you see as a good solution and way to drastically reduce carbon emissions so that we can stop this rise of the climate, which results in the melting of glaciers? When snow and ice and frozen ground either thaws or melts– when it undergoes a phase change from being a solid to a liquid–those effects are dramatic. But how will that impact the world’s ecosystems? The initial effect on individuals and on the world will be relatively small, but the cumulative effect of that overtime is going to be huge. That’s what we’re seeing in the parts of the world that are changing most rapidly, and that fundamentally is a one-way street as the Earth gets warmer and is what precipitates all of these other changes in the system. Coursera [00:00:00]: From Coursera, this is Emma Fitzpatrick, and today, I’m talking to Dr. David Hik of Simon Fraser University in Canada. So, we talk about the geological origins of mountains, the history of these places. The coming marches of many animals will likely dwarf what scientists like Sandel have seen following the waning of the Ice Age. The world's rapidly melting glaciers has disastrous consequences on the animals that rely on them for survival. As glaciers and the giant ice sheets on Greenland and Antarctica melt, they add more water into the ocean, which causes sea level to rise. They probably can stabilize if the global temperature increases around 1.5 degrees, but at two degrees, we see these glaciers disappear almost entirely by the end of the century. They weren't just interested in the past—they were concerned about the future. In Yukon, we’ve been able to show that shrubs–little willows and birch shrubs– are advancing upslope and that their density is increasing at about 5 percent per hector per decade. Coursera.org today to enroll for free in his course Mountains 101. A new study … The retreat of glaciers since 1850 affects the availability of fresh water for irrigation and domestic use, mountain recreation, animals and plants that depend on glacier-melt, and, in the longer term, the level of the oceans. The big ice sheets in Greenland or in the Antarctic are a little more stable, but mountain glaciers around the world, the mid-latitude glaciers–say in Europe or North America or the Himalaya–they’ve been melting quite rapidly. thus causing negative effects to earth such as the polar ice melting, the sea level rising, melting glaciers, agriculture. Scientists had long suspected that some local animals might not be able to outrun climate change, but researchers haven't yet been able to prove the hypothesis, says Loarie, who was not involved in this study: "It's just wonderful to see empirical evidence that backs this up. Rising sea levels contribute to warmer global temperatures, changing what kinds of crops farmers can grow. The five warmest years in the ocean in the last 70 years have been 2019, 2018, 2017, 2016, and 2015. Coursera [00:08:16]: And as you’re having these conversations and thinking about these issues often, do you personally hold out hope that these large changes and drastic things that need to happen to slow the rate of climate change will happen in time before that point of no return? Many people know it, probably from the Klondike Gold Rush and the sort of colorful history of what happened at the end of the 1800s. Dr. David Hik [00:06:31]: Well, it does. Effects of climate change on oceans provides information on the various effects that global warming has on oceans. And I’ve been studying those environments for all of that time. Coursera [00:13:41]: And do you know, from your research or studies, how long that adaption process happens? A glacier is a slowly moving mass river of ice formed by the build-up and compaction of snow. And as we move away from now into a warmer future, the rate of adaptation for some species could be very limited. Certain birds also rely on fish that are found in freshly melting glaciers. And that leads to more health problems, like an increase in diarrhea outbreaks. And so, anywhere on coastlines in every country around the Earth, where people live within a meter of the current high-tide level, will be experiencing a higher frequency of storm surges, an inundation of flooding. Then, over thousands of years, those glaciers began to melt and dribble away. Today, we’re talking with him in more detail about the impact climate change will have on our environment, how that will impact animal, plant, and human life, and the importance of biodiversity overall. So, in a sense, when glaciers melt, that creates new ground that can be occupied by plants and ultimately by animals. And we see the projections are at the current rate that greenhouse gases are increasing in the atmosphere. Why does it matter? Ancient creatures across the globe from bats to frogs faced a difficult decision: adapt to the hotter conditions or move, usually north or up mountains, to chase the receding cooler breezes. But that sort of range of variation is going to be limited to the environmental variation that has been typical of, say, the last 10,000 years or 100,000 years. They probably have survived warm periods and cold periods and Refugio in mountains, and they’re still there. So while immediate affects of melting glaciers might revolve more around rising sea levels, an equally significant longer-term effect will be reduced water, which results in its own problems. With an increase in sea water temperature and rising sea levels, the aquatic plant species will be affected firstly. I mean, the bottom line is we don’t know how to reconstruct ice sheets or Arctic sea ice or rain forest or coral reefs–or all of the other life support systems on Earth that are a result of natural biodiversity and ecosystems. "The melt rates of glaciers depend critically on the temperature of the ocean they are in contact with. Cool-weather animals, put on your running shoes. So, the forest there is predominantly white spruce, and the bark beetle killed about 350,000 hectors of the forest in that part the Yukon–and left all of these standing dead trees. They drew on estimates of how fast temperatures changed in the thousands of years following that maximum, indentifying regions of rapid climate shifts. Forty percent of its productive land is projected to be lost with sea-level rise by mid-century. Daniel Strain is a writer living in Washington, D.C. © 2020 American Association for the Advancement of Science. It’s snow, it’s ice, and it’s permafrost or frozen ground. Now, that may not seem like very much, but it’s also visible to the eye. learn more about the topics he can speak to. And I think whether it’s industrial ports, like where I live in Vancouver or a place like Miami that’s sitting right on the limits of where the sea level is, or Bangladesh–one of the most densely populated countries in the world lives in a very low lying part of Asia. Dr. David Hik [00:12:22]: Right? And 20 million people that live in the coastal areas of Bangladesh are already affected by salinity and drinking water and contamination of groundwater. The predators that are there would probably switch to other prey, to deer or moose or sheep or something like that. There, he’s an Associate Dean of the Faculty of Science as well as a Professor of Biological Sciences. The melting of the glaciers in the Himalayas could have a devastating effect on both animals and people. Coursera [00:06:24]: Is there anything we can do to slow the melting of the glaciers or prevent that from happening? The plankton example that we were talking about a bit earlier, that study was over 120 years. Can you talk through exactly what biodiversity is and why it’s important? So, one of the fairly universal responses to warming that we observe is a shift, an upward shift, in the limit of treeline, the altitudinal limit of treeline and shrub line and Tundra. But scientists should use caution when applying the fates of animals during the Ice Age to the modern era, says Robert Colwell, a biogeographer at the University of Connecticut, Storrs. It’s a wild mountain area that includes Canada’s largest mountain peak glaciers and glacier-fed lakes. In parts of modern-day Canada or Northern Europe—"high velocity" regions—animals likely had to migrate close to 100 meters per year to keep within their ideal environments. By Daniel Strain Oct. 6, 2011 , 2:00 PM. A recent study he did found that 80 percent of the glaciers in Alberta and British Columbia could melt in the next 50 years. Brody Sandel (map); Dennis Pedersen (photo), Those same areas today host very few endemic mammals, birds, or amphibians, Heat is killing more people than ever. 3. Dr. David Hik [00:16:06]: So, biodiversity is a term that we use to generally describe the number of species that live in a particular area, and once we decide what species live in a place, that becomes our inventory of the health of a particular environment. And we work in a social environment, and we work with a community that lives in those places and experience firsthand the changes that occur as a result of warming or other disturbances. Some bird species depend on the fish species that are found in fresh melting waters of a glacier. And while we might zoom in on one species, like a pica, those individuals live within a much larger context. If we wait for things to fully break down, that is rather late to start to try to restore that damage. The melting of Antarctic ice sheets is one of the most visceral consequences of climate change, but the full extent of their impact on the cycle remains … My favorite species that I’ve been studying for many years are rock rabbits, or pikas, that live in boulder fields–high, high in the mountains–and they’ve been around for 40 million years. And so for the people who live in that part of the world–fairly small communities, far away from larger centers, out along the Alaska Highway. Dr. David Hik [00:08:33]: You know, if you had asked me a couple of years ago, I would have been a little more despondent, but I’m increasingly optimistic that we can bend the emissions curve. So, we have ways of using biodiversity as a measure for how well a particular place on the planet is doing in the face of all of these other disturbances, of which climate changes is one of the most worrying. Since glaciers are melting, the habitat of polar bears, walruses, arctic foxes, and other arctic animals are being destroyed, leading to theses animals’ extinction. So, people often sort of think the options that species have as to move, adapt, or perish. And that leads to the potential for a greater forest fire risk. In a 2009 paper published in Nature, researchers coined the term "climate velocity" to describe the pace of such mass migrations. ___________________________________________________________________________. Dr. David Hik [00:07:24] : Well, I think the increase in alternative energy sources–so solar, wind, geothermal–those are being implemented much more rapidly than was initially predicted and could certainly replace a large part of the fossil fuel consumption. Some 1.3 billion rely on water flowing from the mountains, which could dry up … As water gets warmer, it occupies a larger volume. Such changes in stream habitat may also adversely impact native trout and other keystone salmon species. Coursera [00:02:44]: And of course you’re a scientist, so you’ve got that eagle eye to really be noticing these things. © 2020 Coursera Inc. All rights reserved. There are a lot of living organisms that rely mainly on glaciers for continued existence. I’d love to hear, from your perspective, how has the landscape in the Yukon, where you’ve done a lot of research over years and decades, changed from when you first visited it? And as always, thanks for listening and happy learning. There’s a variety of species that I think I’m concerned about, but I think a lot of species will find ways to surprise us. Half of humanity relies on water that flows out of mountains either from snow or glaciers, into the lowlands. Dr. David Hik [00:13:53]: I mean, evolutionary processes can occur fairly quickly, or they can occur over very long periods of time. All rights Reserved. The negative effects of global warming have caused sea levels to rise. There’s other things besides climate change, but climate change tends to exacerbate all of those other factors. These relatively speedy shifts may have driven local animals to extinction, says Brody Sandel, who studies ecoinformatics at Aarhus University in Denmark. The ones that are at greatest risk are the ones that don’t have any habitat left. And we talk about the natural hazards that occur as gravity moves rocks and mountain and water and snow down to the bottom. But our concern right now is that the rate of change in the climate system– the change in temperature, change in snow change in precipitation–is occurring so quickly that they can’t adapt quickly enough. 00:04:55 ]: that ’ s more suitable in a sense, when glaciers melt, that is rather to! The polar regions of intrinsic loss of beautiful things in Nature that we start... 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