Claim: Mountain streams protect species from global warming

“… in contrast to previous studies that predicted widespread extinctions in mountain environments.
The media release and abstract are below.”

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Climate change and biodiversity in mountain streams

Researchers report that mountain streams might protect native species against climate change, in contrast to previous studies that predicted widespread extinctions in mountain environments. Aquatic species native to cold water have been thought to be particularly at risk from climate change, but previous predictions for these species rest on sparse datasets and untested assumptions about the relationship between air and water temperatures. Daniel Isaak and colleagues estimated the historical warming trends throughout a 222,000-km network of rivers and streams in the northwestern United States using temperature measurements from more than 16,000 monitoring sites. During the years 1968-2011, when air temperatures warmed by 0.21 °C per decade on average, water temperatures rose by only 0.101 °C per decade. Climate zones moved at a median velocity of 1.07 km per decade during this same period, more than an order of magnitude slower than velocities reported for terrestrial and marine environments. The authors found that several cold-water vertebrate species occupied habitats characterized by particularly slow climate velocities. Three species of conservation concern – bull trout, cutthroat trout, and tailed frogs – inhabited environments with climate velocities slower than 0.5 km per decade. According to the authors, the results suggest that mountain streams might buffer species against the effects of a warming climate, and that biodiversity in such refuge streams could persist throughout the coming century.

Article #15-22429: “Slow climate velocities of mountain streams portend their role as refugia for cold-water biodiversity,” by Daniel J. Isaak et al.

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