Environmentalists suggest that invertebrates inhabiting mountain streams, are especially sensitive to the disappearance of glaciers due to global warming. However, a study conducted in glacier national Park, USA, showed that these creatures have a certain resilience to climate change. According to publications in the journal Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, even a cold-specialized species can survive the melting of the glaciers and to adapt to the streams with snow and underground power.
Mountain glaciers worldwide are rapidly retreating under the impact of climate change. Environmentalists predict that this process will lead to significant losses of biodiversity. Primarily affected the species associated with streams of melt water, the source of which are the glaciers.
However, direct observations of how the shrinking glaciers affect the ecological community they fed by mountain streams, a bit. To fill this gap is decided by the team under the leadership of Clint Muhlfeld (Clint C. Muhlfeld) from Montanaso University.
The research focused on the mountainous areas of glacier national Park in Montana. Here the loss of the ice cover began in the mid-nineteenth century and accelerated markedly in the last decade. Of the 146 glaciers existed in the Park in 1850-ies to 2005, survived only 35 percent. It is projected that by the year 2100 will melt and they.
Using satellite imagery and historical records, the authors evaluated the current state of the glaciers of glacier Park and the losses incurred over the past half century. This information was compared with data on the number and diversity of aquatic invertebrates on 129 sites in mountain streams.
Contrary to the expectations of the authors, communities of specialized invertebrates, including the vulnerable endemic stoneflies Lednia tumana and Zapada glacier, proved to be more resistant to environmental changes than previously thought. Where the glaciers melted, they moved on to life in streams fed by groundwater and seasonal snow cover. In some places, a cold-water invertebrates remained even after 170 years after the disappearance of the glacier.
Of course, these results do not mean that invertebrates from streams of the Park glacier invulnerable to global warming. The authors note that the increase in temperature causes them to rise higher on the slopes. This leads to fragmentation of habitat and reduced genetic diversity. However, the consequences of melting glaciers to mountain ecosystems has proved more difficult than anticipated.
Not all invertebrates are unable to adapt to the changing climate. For example, cold-water plankton inhabiting the waters of the North Atlantic, began to die out in the middle of last century. It was replaced by more thermophilic species.