Motive Project

Article alert: Climate change impacts and carbon in U.S. national parks


Gonzalez, P., 2011. Climate change impacts and carbon in U.S. national parks. Park Science 28 (2): 10-15.


New spatial analyses of climate data and 123 peer-reviewed scientific publications document impacts of climate change and carbon stocks and emissions in the U.S. National Park System. Ninety-six percent of land administered by the National Park Service (NPS) is located in areas of observed warming in the 20th century, with an average mean annual temperature increase of 0.6 0.5C (1.1 0.9F). Scientific evidence attributes this warming to human greenhouse gas emissions. Field measurements in national parks have detected glacial melt, decreased snowfall and snowpack, earlier spring warmth and streamflow, sea-level rise, increased conifer mortality, and shifts of vegetation biomes, small-mammal ranges, and winter bird ranges. Analyses attribute these impacts to climate change. In California, the National Park Service manages ecosystems with some of the highest forest carbon densities in the world. Carbon emissions from fossil fuel use in parks that cover 10% of system area are equivalent to the emissions of a U.S. city of 21,000 people. These published scientific results provide national parks with information for vulnerability analyses of key resources, adaptation of resource management, and the reduction of climate change through forest conservation and management and energy conservation and efficiency.

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