Rare insect found only in glacier national park imperiled by melting glaciers

Rare insect found only in glacier national park imperiled by melting glaciers
Western Glacier Stonefly. Credit: United States Geological Survey

The persistence of an already rare aquatic insect, the western glacier stonefly, is being imperiled by the loss of glaciers and increased stream temperatures due to climate warming in mountain ecosystems, according to a new study released in Freshwater Science.

In the study, scientists with the U.S. Geological Survey, Bucknell University, and the University of Montana illustrate the shrinking habitat of the western glacier stonefly (Zapada glacier) associated with glacial recession using data spanning from 1960 – 2012. The western glacier stonefly is only found in Glacier National Park and was first identified in streams there in 1963. 

In a two year period beginning in 2011, scientists resampled six streams throughout the stonefly's historical range and, using species identification and genetic analysis, found the western glacier stonefly in only one previously occupied stream and in two new locations at higher elevations. 

For scientists, the concern is not just about this single species, since the stonefly is representative of an entire, unique ecosystem.

"Many are considered vulnerable to climate change because they are cold water dependent and confined to mountaintop streams immediately below melting glaciers and permanent snowfields," said Joe Giersch, project leader and USGS scientist. "Few studies have documented changes in distributions associated with temperature warming and glacial recession, and this is the first to do so for an aquatic species in the Rockies."

The glaciers in Glacier National Park are predicted to disappear by 2030 and the western glacier stonefly is responding by retreating upstream in search of higher, cooler alpine stream habitats directly downstream of disappearing glaciers, permanent snowfields and springs in the park.

Rare insect found only in glacier national park imperiled by melting glaciers
The rare western glacier stonefly (Zapada glacier) is native to Glacier National Park and is seeking habitat at higher elevations due to warming stream temperature and glacier loss due to climate warming. Credit: United States Geological Survey

"Soon there will be nowhere left for the stonefly to go," said Giersch.

USGS conducted this US FWS-funded research, in part, because the stonefly was petitioned for inclusion under the U.S. Endangered Species Act, and more information was needed on its status and distribution to make that determination.

Rare insect found only in glacier national park imperiled by melting glaciers
A spring fed stream in the Two-Medicine drainage of Glacier National Park is one of 2 new locations for the western glacier stonefly (Zapada glacier). Credit: United States Geological Survey

"There are a handful of other coldwater dependent alpine aquatic species here in Glacier that are at risk of extinction due to the loss of permanent snow and ice. Under a warming climate, the biodiversity of unique aquatic alpine species – not just in Glacier, but worldwide – is threatened, and warrants further study," said Giersch.  

Results from the study will be featured in the upcoming issue of Freshwater Science.  The article is titled "Climate –induced range contraction of a rare alpine invertebrate".


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Rare alpine insect may disappear with glaciers

More information: www.jstor.org/discover/10.1086 … 4&sid=21105382882073
Citation: Rare insect found only in glacier national park imperiled by melting glaciers (2014, December 5) retrieved 17 August 2019 from https://phys.org/news/2014-12-rare-insect-glacier-national-imperiled.html
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User comments

Dec 05, 2014
Maybe we can use this under the endangered species act to force emission reductions? Not likely. What we really need is our U.S. Congressmen/women to pass legislation that would raise the costs of polluting activities. It would get the market to favor cleaner energy generation and use. But currently there are too many members (mostly republicans) that deny climate change is a problem. They cater to the fossil fuel interests of some political agenda while putting our future generations at risk. They need to be confronted and replaced if necessary. Please join the efforts.
ExhaustingHabitability(dot)org

Dec 05, 2014
Political science articles are an invasive species.

cjn
Dec 05, 2014
FTA: "Soon there will be nowhere left for the stonefly to go," said Giersch.

There are 3,500 species of stoneflies, and those that are adapted to the warmer water will populate that niche (http://en.wikiped...optera). So at least there's that.

FTA: "The glaciers in Glacier National Park are predicted to disappear by 2030..."

I've been meaning to get out to Glacier NP, so this might be the kick in the rear I need to do so.

Dec 05, 2014
Adapt or die.

Dec 06, 2014
All i can say is that i miss the days of physorg when most articles werent in one or another way about climate change.

Dec 06, 2014
They are great fish bait. We used to get them by the bucket full for trout and Char fishing.

Dec 06, 2014
All i can say is that i miss the days of physorg when most articles werent in one or another way about climate change.


Then you're an innumerate fabulist.
In physorg today, there are 145 stories on the front page, and 17 of them are about climate change.
12% is not "most".

Dec 06, 2014
They are dominated by left wing. They somehow feel its their duty to carry the party line rather than the truth. They need to beat you up with it so you will finally believe it. Its not working on all of us.

Dec 07, 2014
Any chance the Republican insects in Congress will be threatened?

Dec 11, 2014
Stoneflies are a good indicator species because of their high demand for dissolve oxygen in the water (BOD) during the larval stage. They require fast flowing water that captures a lot of air as it moves downstream over the rocks. Having said this, I would be more concerned about organic material precipitating out of the atmosphere and entering the streams that would bind free oxygen than I would about some coffee table theory given without any supporting data about the influences of temperature. Think along the lines of acid rain from coal fired plants in China, much more plausible and testable. Stop the general propaganda piece that attributes everything under the sun to climate change without any suggestion as to any specific factors involved. It isn't science but speculation without merit.

Dec 11, 2014
http://www.scient...20141210

Look up the concentration of O2 in water by temperature.

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