Thawing permafrost is triggering mudslides onto a key road traveled by busloads of sightseers. Tall bushes newly sprouted on the tundra are blocking panoramic views. And glaciers are receding from convenient viewing areas, while their rapid summer melt poses new flood risks. These are just a few of the ways that a rapidly warming climate is reshaping Denali, Kenai Fjords and other national parks comprising the crown jewels of Alaska’s heritage as America’s last frontier. These and some better-known impacts — proliferation of invasive plants and fish, greater frequency and intensity of wildfires, and declines in wildlife populations that depend on sea ice and glaciers — are outlined in a recent National Park Service report.
Move over, polar bear. The Pacific walrus may be the new icon of global warming. Like polar bears, walruses are dependent on floating sea ice to rest, forage for food and nurture their young. Like polar bears, walruses are suffering because of a scarcity of summer and fall sea ice in Arctic waters that scientists attribute to climate change. And like polar bears, which were listed as threatened in 2008, protections under the Endangered Species Act may be granted to walruses, even though it is hard to get an accurate count of their population.