NASA and National Parks Services fighting climate change In Yellowstone

NASA and the U.S. National Parks Service explain how technology from the space agency is helping monitor and fight the impacts of climate change in Yellowstone National Park

During a discussion at the IUCN World Parks Congress, the U.S. National Parks Service has outlined that climate change impacts are being monitored in the world’s oldest national park – Yellowstone.

Yellowstone was gazetted as the first national park due to its geological features, such as its geysers – but is also one of the most biodiverse locations in the United States, with many species such as wolves, bears, beavers, foxes, birds and fish residing within the national park.

However, as global temperatures start to increase, these impacts are being felt across the park itself.

John Gross, from the U.S. National Parks Service (NPS) outlined that these changes have been recorded with events such as an increase in the number of lifeless brown trees, bison migration patterns shifting and the wildfire season growing.

Using NASA data and products, NPS have monitored the key to the shifting landscape in Yellowstone, with hydrological patterns beginning to shift along with flora and fauna following this trend.

Mr Gross highlighted the Douglas Fir and Lodgepole Pine, which are starting to move up the mountains to higher and steeper elevations. As wildfires tear through the lower valleys, these species of trees are then naturally replaced by invasive and more competitive species.

Incorporating 3D mapping and projects, NASA has provided NPS with downscale data that allows monitoring of the unfolding story, with models predicting that certain species will be ‘pushed off the mountain top’ over the next century.

Mr Gross acknowledged the close and supportive relationship between NASA and NPS in using satellite-, aerial- and land-based technology to monitor climate change and implement management options to mitigate the growing risks.

A four-part plan to identify conservation targets, assess their vulnerability to climate change, identify management options and then implement risk mitigation strategies was displayed at the World Parks Congress event, which attracted a large audience.

The 6th IUCN World Parks Congress event in Sydney is a conference bringing together over 5,000 delegates from over 160 countries to discuss the future of protected areas, our planet’s environment and sustainability.


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