Climate change is the defining issue of our time, affecting people and communities all over the world. How will our changing climate impact plants and animals? Here are some of the North American species that are threatened by climate change and some of the ways The Nature Conservancy is helping to address the issue.
Learn more about climate change and how you can be part of the solution.
While a pika can live in a wide range of air temperatures, the microclimates where they spend most of their time under rocks, in cracks and in talus fields average 32 degrees. When those microclimates warm, pikas overheat and die. But a recent study has shown that lands protected by The Nature Conservancy around Craters of the Moon National Monument and Preserve in Idaho will play an important role in connecting pika populations and providing suitable habitat for pikas and other wildlife threatened by climate change.
Red knots fly more than 18,000 miles round-trip each year, one of the longest distance migrations in the animal kingdom. The Delaware Bayshore, rich in horseshoe crab eggs, is a major refueling stop for them. But that critical habitat is shrinking because of sea level rise, erosion and climate change. The Nature Conservancy is restoring New Jersey’s coasts through innovative projects like installing oyster castles and living shorelines and reusing materials dredged from boating channels to stabilize and rebuild salt marshes.
Solar energy development is one solution to reducing carbon emissions and combating climate change. But utility-scale facilities in the Mojave Desert can be as big as San Francisco, destroying large swathes of fragile habitat. The pace of change can be quick. The problem? Desert tortoises—some born before the Hoover Dam was completed—are not. Once their habitats are lost, restoration is difficult, if not impossible. That’s why The Nature Conservancy is working to ensure important clean energy development goes in already degraded areas.
As climate change alters habitats and disrupts ecosystems, one thing animals can do to adapt is to move. But human structures like roads and buildings often stand in the way of migrating animals like bobcats, foxes, panthers, moose and many others. A pilot project in New York is adding "Critter Crossings" to culverts to help animals use them as tunnels to cross roads and get where they need to go.
Sea Star Wasting Syndrome (SSWS) is linked to a virus that has been found in sea stars from as long ago as 1942. However, a recent study suggests that the massive die-off that began in 2013 is related to warm water temperatures. Conservancy staff in Oregon are monitoring sea star populations and have recently seen a rebound in populations. It’s important we continue monitoring efforts; sea stars are a critical part of our marine habitats and another outbreak could change these habitats for years.
Home to migratory warblers, wolves and the rare pine martin, Wisconsin’s Northwoods are a great place to experience the serenity and beauty of deep forests and wild lakes. But Wisconsin’s climate is changing and the trend is toward hotter, drier summers and milder winters in the Northwoods, putting some species like hemlock and sugar maple at risk. The Nature Conservancy is changing how it manages the forests at its Caroline Lake Preserve in northern Wisconsin to help keep them healthy and productive in the anticipated warmer, drier climate of the future.
For generations, caribou have been a source of sustenance and cultural identify for many Indigenous peoples in northern Canada. But the population of this enigmatic animal has declined sharply in the past decade as climate change threatens their habitat in the boreal forests of the Northwest Territories. TNC Canada is working with the working with the Lutsel K’e Dene First Nation to establish Thaidene Nene, a National Park Reserve that will protect 3.5M acres of critical ecosystems and significant sacred sites — and remain one of the last strongholds for woodland caribou.
Gunnison Sage Grouse
Streamside and wetland habitats are relatively rare in the Western U.S., but they provide critical habitat for a variety of species, including the Gunnison sage-grouse. As precipitation patterns change, these grouse brooding areas are becoming more scarce, but a unique hands-on project in Colorado is helping. The Conservancy and partners have installed more than 240 small rock structures in Colorado that are helping to retain snowmelt and summer rains, allowing wetland plants to grow and providing more habitat fro grouse and other wildlife.
The roots of some prairie plants extend nearly 20 feet below the surface. This deep root system not only ensures the prairie’s survival for decades, it serves as a storage area for carbon dioxide from the atmosphere. The Nature Conservancy in Illinois is working to restore our iconic prairies for people and for nature at places like Kankakee Sands and Nachusa Grasslands.