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Shorter winter could hurt Shoshone
Forest's local economy -- study

Published: Monday, March 19, 2012

The United States' first national forest is bracing for disrupted water supplies, pine beetle outbreaks and some possible species loss as temperatures edge upward.

A new report, released by the U.S. Forest Service Rocky Mountain Research Station, predicts both economic benefits and losses for the Shoshone National Forest as climate lengthens summer and shifts critical elements within the region's ecosystems.

"We may be going into some uncharted territory with temperatures, or at least that is what the science says," said Janine Rice, lead author of the study and a professor at the University of Colorado. "We're not sure how all of this is going to play out, so having scientific information to plan and help these ecosystems and resources adapt and change, I think, is really critical."

Climate records from the past 100 years show that average temperatures have risen by 2 degrees Fahrenheit during the summer and autumn, and twice as much during the winter and spring.

The study also found that temperatures had increased more at higher elevations, raising concerns about certain high-alpine species, like the whitebark pine.

Although climate change will likely extend the summer travel season, allowing more people to visit the park, it also threatens to exacerbate wildfires, deplete water supplies and allow the mountain pine beetle into previously inaccessible reaches of the park.

Pine beetle outbreaks have devastated whitebark populations in other parts of the country. Researchers are worried about a similar outcome in Yellowstone, as the tree is a principal food source for the park's grizzly bears and nuthatches (Martin Kidston, Billings Gazette/Casper Star-Tribune, March 16). -- NM

Reprinted from ClimateWire with permission from Environment & Energy Publishing, LLC. 202-628-6500


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Reprinted from ClimateWire with permission from Environment & Energy Publishing, LLC. 202-628-6500.

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