Home » Manage Mountainous Habitats for Climate Change
Mountainous — high elevation — habitats are particularly vulnerable to the effects of climate change, because species often have no choice but to move to higher elevations. Those species already existing at high elevation habitats may literally run out of space.
Mountainous habitats can be found in eastern, western and Pacific states, including New England, Alaska and Hawaii. Evidence indicates that warming in the mid- to high-latitudes is occurring at two to three times the rate of the global average, which means these systems are facing more extreme warming trends in general. These impacts are especially pronounced in arctic and alpine ecosystems, and ongoing increases in temperature and altered precipitation patterns will affect the strong seasonal patterns that characterize these temperature-limited systems. The impacts of climate change vary based on the location, elevation and species composition, but may include species migration and extinction, reduced snow cover and the earlier arrival of spring, among others.
Observed and predicted climate change impacts on mountainous habitats include:
Warmer winters, decreased snowpack and the encroachment of new species all present serious challenges to the plants and animals that rely on high-elevation habitats. Land trusts that are working to manage mountainous habitats for climate change may wish to:
Additional resources about predicted climate change impacts to mountainous habitats, ecosystems, and wildlife include:
In addition to providing unique habitat, glaciers and snowpack associated with mountainous ecosystems are interconnected to water resource systems. Earlier springtime snowmelts and glacial retreat are already impacting timing and flow - and in some cases flooding patterns - in down-gradient rivers and streams, presenting additional challenges to these ecosystems.
Land trusts are engaging in strategic conservation planning to build resilience and minimize vulnerabilities to impacts of climate change in different ways. Learn more.