New Report Identifies Top 10 U.S. Ecosystems to Save
for Endangered Species in a Warming World
Portland, Ore. — The Snake River Basin was listed as one of the top 10 habitats in the United States to save for wildlife, fish and plants on the brink of extinction in a new report released today by the Endangered Species Coalition. The report, It’s Getting Hot Out There: Top 10 Places to Save for Endangered Species in a Warming World, highlights how the changing climate is increasing the risk of extinction for imperiled fish, plants, and wildlife, and the importance of protecting 10 key ecosystems in the United States.
“Climate change is no longer a distant threat on the horizon,” said Leda Huta, executive director of the Endangered Species Coalition. “It has arrived and is threatening ecosystems that we all depend upon, and our endangered species are particularly vulnerable. If we are serious about saving endangered species from global warming, then these are the places to start,” added Huta.
The report highlights ten ecosystems that are hotspots for threatened and endangered species, many of which are highly vulnerable to climate change now. The Snake River Basin – along with Arctic sea ice, Florida’s Everglades, coral reefs, and others – was chosen as one of these top 10 hotspots for protection, restoration, and reconnection.
“It’s no surprise that the Snake River Basin has been identified as one of the most important regions to protect in a warming world,” said Don Chapman, a retired Idaho fisheries biologist and expert on Snake River salmon. “This part of the Pacific Northwest is home to one-of-a-kind salmon. Snake River salmon and steelhead climb higher than any other salmon on the planet – upwards of 7,000 feet – and its chinook and sockeye travel farther – almost 1,000 miles inland – to reach their natal streams. These fish bring nutrients from the Pacific Ocean to more than 150 other species, including several other endangered species. This place is truly a ‘Noah’s Ark’ for salmon. If we can get them back here, to the highest, coldest, and most intact salmon habitat in the continental U.S., they can survive and thrive and feed others, even in the face of climate change. But we need to remove the four dams on the lower Snake River in order to reconnect this special habitat to the salmon that call it home.”
ESC members nominated the ecosystems for inclusion in the report, and the submissions were then reviewed and judged by a panel of scientists. For each ecosystem, the report identifies some of the endangered species that live there, as well as the necessary conservation measures that will be required to help them to survive.
"What has been lost in the news over climate change and what this report highlights is that, at this very moment, we have a crucial window of opportunity to save species and ecosystems. There are conservation measures that if taken now can greatly increase a habitat's and species' ability to withstand climate change. But, we don't have a minute to spare," said Jean Brennan, Ph.D., Research Associate, Virginia Tech, Conservation Management Institute & sharer of the Nobel Peace Prize for her "substantial contribution to the award of the Nobel Peace Prize for 2007 to the IPCC."
“Endangered species don't have the luxury of waiting for political leaders to act to slow the pace of climate change,” said Huta. “We certainly need to reduce global warming pollution, but we also need to act now to protect some of the most important ecosystems for imperiled wildlife for whom climate change may mean extinction. Each ecosystem for the report was chosen because we have an opportunity to increase its resiliency—or the resiliency of the species that live there—to climate change if we immediately implement conservation measures.”
According to the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), 20 to 30 percent of the world's species will be at an increased risk of extinction if global temperature increases exceed 1.5 to 2.5° C (3 to 5° F) above pre-industrial levels. The climate threats to species include increased disease, diminished reproduction, lost habitat, reduced food supply, and other impacts.
Safeguarding Species in a Warming World
It’s Getting Hot Out There calls on the Obama Administration and Congress to provide the tools and resources necessary to protect these key ecosystems from global climate change. The Coalition would also like to see climate change factored into all future endangered species-related decisions in order to help prevent species from disappearing forever.
These are the top 10 ecosystems to save for endangered species featured in the report:
1. The Arctic Sea Ice, home to the polar bear, Pacific walrus and at least 6 species of seal.
2. Shallow Water Coral Reefs, home to the critically endangered elkhorn and staghorn coral.
3. The Hawaiian Islands, home to more than a dozen imperiled birds, and 319 threatened and endangered plants.
4. Southwest Deserts, home to numerous imperiled plants, fish, and mammals.
5. The San Francisco Bay-Delta, home to the imperiled Pacific salmon, Swainson’s hawk, tiger salamander and Delta smelt.
6. California Sierra Mountains, home to 30 native species of amphibian, including the Yellow-legged frog.
7. The Snake River Basin, home to numerous endangered species, including four imperiled runs of salmon and steelhead, the only salmon on the planet that climb as high – upwards of 7,000 feet – and swim as far – over 900 miles inland – to their natal streams.
8. Greater Yellowstone Ecosystem, home to the imperiled Whitebark pine, an important food source for animals, including the threatened Grizzly bear.
9. The Gulf Coast’s flatlands and wetlands, home to the Piping and Snowy plovers, Mississippi sandhill crane, and numerous species of sea turtles.
10. The Greater Everglades, home to 67 threatened and endangered species, including the manatee and the red cockaded woodpecker.
The full report, which includes information on each ecosystem, as well as recommended conservation measures, is available online at www.itsgettinghotoutthere.org or www.StopExtinction.org.