I’ve recently blogged about the effects of climate change on California coastal hiking trails, and how climate change is affecting animals in the Sierra Nevada and glaciers in Yosemite National Park.
I just found an article about the findings of Dave Kavanaugh, the Senior Curator of Entomology at the California Academy of Sciences. Dr. Kavanaugh has been studying insect populations and their distributions since the 1970s. He specializes in the Nebria beetle, which only lives in very cold areas near glaciers, snow fields, and cold streams.
Here are some of Dr. Kavanaugh’s findings:
Just about wherever I visited, I found that the beetles were either very much rarer in occurrence or weren’t there at all,” said Kavanaugh, Ph.D.
Dave eventually discovered many beetles had moved to higher elevations and in some cases, several hundred feet higher.
“I think these beetles are very, very sensitive indicators of climate change,” said Kavanaugh, Ph.D.
Dave believes the beetles are moving higher to keep cool as their habitat melts away. The mountain streams have changed.
“They had become more overgrown with more vegetation right on the banks, not cool rocky raging streams,” said Kavanaugh, Ph.D.
One spot he documented is Upper Caribou Lake in the Trinity Alps in Northern California. One of Dave’s students found the beetles at a higher altitude on nearby Thomson Peak.
But the glacier on that mountain, a critical part of the beetle’s habitat, is breaking up, and that means the beetle species may soon run out of habitat all together.
“It’s already at the top of the mountain and it’s got nowhere else to go,” said Kavanaugh, Ph.D.
I’ve spent a lot of time in the Trinity Alps, including the Caribou Lakes, and I’ve climbed Thompson Peak from Grizzly Lake. I haven’t been around Thompson Peak for quite awhile, so I can’t speak definitively.
Have you seen any evidence of climate change in the Trinity Alps or Sierra Nevada? Share your observations with us.
For more information on recent studies of climate change on Northern California, visit Tom Knudson’s Sierra Summit blog and the KQED Climate Watch blog.