GAO report confirms habitat changes due to climate

September 7, 2007 at 1:56 am | Posted in Alaska, Arctic habitats, Arizona, Attenborough, Biological effects, Climate change, Economic effects, Ecosystems, Environment, Florida, Forests, GAO, Glaciers, Global warming, Grasslands, Location shifts, Marine life, Montana, Physical effects, Reports, Social effects, Timing shifts | 1 Comment

Yesterday saw the release of an important report, dated August 2007, which has been three years in the making after being requested in March 2004 by Sens. John Kerry, D-Mass., and John McCain, R-Ariz, when they were both running for the presidential nomination.

The 184-page report by the United States Government Accountability Office is available online at the U.S. GAO website, where this is, at time of writing, the top item:

September 06, 2007

Climate Change: Agencies Should Develop Guidance for Addressing the Effects on Federal Land and Water Resources GAO-07-863, August 07, 2007 (PDF)

The opening paragraphs of the Summary (HTML) are on page 2 of 184 in the Full Report PDF linked above:

What GAO Found

According to experts at the GAO workshop, federal land and water resources are vulnerable to a wide range of effects from climate change, some of which are already occurring. These effects include, among others, (1) physical effects, such as droughts, floods, glacial melting, and sea level rise; (2) biological effects, such as increases in insect and disease infestations, shifts in species distribution, and changes in the timing of natural events; and (3) economic and social effects, such as adverse impacts on tourism, infrastructure, fishing, and other resource uses.

Experts at the GAO workshop also identified several challenges that resource managers face in addressing the observed and potential effects of climate change in their management and planning efforts. In particular, BLM, FS, FWS, NOAA, and NPS have not made climate change a priority, and the agencies’ strategic plans do not specifically address climate change. Resource managers focus first on near-term, required activities, leaving less time for addressing longer-term issues such as climate change.

In addition, resource managers have limited guidance about whether or how to address climate change and, therefore, are uncertain about what actions, if any, they should take. In general, resource managers lack specific guidance for incorporating climate change into their management actions and planning efforts. Without such guidance, their ability to address climate change and effectively manage resources is constrained. …

Read the rest of the Summary (HTML)

Here’s a news article on the report:

GAO Faults Agencies Over Global Warming


WASHINGTON (AP) — Wildfires are flaring bigger and hotter in Alaska, the northern Rockies and the Sierra Nevada. Bighorn sheep, mountain goats and grizzly bears in Glacier National Park, along with deer and marsh rabbits in the Florida Keys, face a housing crisis.

Glacier’s alpine meadows are disappearing, sea levels are rising in the Keys and other federal lands are feeling the heat from global warming — and the government is not doing much about it, congressional investigators said in a report Thursday.

Climate change, however, does have things looking up for heat-loving pests like beetles, grasshoppers and fungi. Spruce bark beetles are chewing their way through 1,560 square miles of Alaska’s Kenai Peninsula, including 620 square miles of spruce trees in Chugach National Forest. Southern pine beetles are on the march in red spruce forests of the Southeast.

Non-native grasses are fast replacing native shrubs in the Mojave Desert, where the grasses also are fueling hotter and longer-lasting wildfires. Even pinyon pines hundreds of years old that have survived droughts before in the Southwest are dying off.

After more than three years of study, the Government Accountability Office, an arm of Congress, harshly faulted …

Read the entire article at AP/Google, or a shorter summary Interior Faulted on Global Warming in Guardian Breaking News

After watching David Attenborough’s newest documentary showing ecosystems affected in various ways by climate change, I can better appreciate the scenes described in the AP article. In fact, Attenborough Explores … Our Fragile World is the kind of programme that can be shown to grade school students to help them understand the implications of changes, such as the beneficial terms for warmer climate insects that encourage their growing populations to destroy plants, damage habitats and interfere with the lifestyles of animals further up the food chain.

For instance, here’s another quote from John Heilprin’s article:

The GAO investigators looked at four representative areas:

  • The Florida Keys National Marine Sanctuary.
  • Alaska’s Chugach National Forest.
  • Montana’s Glacier National Park.
  • Grasslands and shrubs managed by Interior’s Bureau of Land Management in northwestern Arizona.

From those studies, investigators concluded: “Climate change has already begun to adversely affect federal resources in a variety of ways. Most experts with whom we spoke believe that these effects will continue and likely intensify over the coming decades.”

In one short programme, Attenborough provided compelling and well-researched examples of changes to marine life, forest habitats, arctic and antarctic ecosystems and more. He really captures the changing situation on the ground, and at sea, as never before. Let’s hope that his latest programme will be shown around the world, but especially in America; and I do hope people realise that changes described in this comprehensive GAO report are not just happening to the almost 30 percent of the United States which is classed as being federal lands and water resources, but other consequences of global warming will also affect the 70 percent of America which is not technically covered by the report.

It is clear our habits need to change to minimise future habitat changes. For the sake of those who come after.


1 Comment »

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  1. It’s about time this came out!

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