Claim: Climate change could leave Pacific Northwest amphibians high and dry

From the UNIVERSITY OF WASHINGTON

To develop the model, the team collected data for 121 wetland sites in Olympic National Park, Mount Rainier National Park and North Cascades National Park. Researchers monitored each site several times during the summer and fall of 2012. CREDIT Maureen Ryan University of Washington

To develop the model, the team collected data for 121 wetland sites in Olympic National Park, Mount Rainier National Park and North Cascades National Park. Researchers monitored each site several times during the summer and fall of 2012. CREDIT Maureen Ryan University of Washington

Far above the wildfires raging in Washington’s forests, a less noticeable consequence of this dry year is taking place in mountain ponds. The minimal snowpack and long summer drought that have left the Pacific Northwest lowlands parched also affect the region’s amphibians due to loss of mountain pond habitat.

According to a new paper published Sept. 2 in the open-access journal PLOS ONE, this summer’s severe conditions may be the new normal within just a few decades.

“This year is an analog for the 2070s in terms of the conditions of the ponds in response to climate,” said Se-Yeun Lee, research scientist at University of Washington’s Climate Impacts Group and one of the lead authors of the study.

Current conditions provide a preview of how that will play out.

“We’ve seen that the lack of winter snowpack and high summer temperatures have resulted in massive breeding failures and the death of some adult frogs,” said co-author Wendy Palen, an associate professor at Canada’s Simon Fraser University who has for many years studied mountain amphibians in the Pacific Northwest. “More years like 2015 do not bode well for the frogs.”

Mountain ponds are oases in the otherwise harsh alpine environment. Brilliant green patches amid the rocks and heather, the ponds are breeding grounds for Cascades frogs, toads, newts and several other salamanders, and watering holes for species ranging from shrews to mountain lions. They are also the cafeterias of the alpine for birds, snakes and mammals that feed on the invertebrates and amphibians that breed in high-altitude ponds.

The authors developed a new model that forecasts changes to four different types of these ecosystems: ephemeral, intermediate, perennial and permanent wetlands. Results showed that climate-induced reductions in snowpack, increased evaporation rates, longer summer droughts and other factors will likely lead to the loss or rapid drying of many of these small but ecologically important wetlands.

According to the study, more than half of the intermediate wetlands are projected to convert to fast-drying ephemeral wetlands by the year 2080. These most vulnerable ponds are the same ones that now provide the best habitat for frogs and salamanders.

At risk are unique species such as the Cascades frog, which is currently being evaluated for listing under the Endangered Species Act. Found only at high elevations in Washington, Oregon and California, Cascades frogs can live for more than 20 years and can survive under tens of feet of snow. During the mating season, just after ponds thaw, the males make chuckling sounds to attract females.

“They are the natural jesters of the alpine, incredibly tough but incredibly funny and charismatic,” said Maureen Ryan, the other lead author, a former UW postdoctoral researcher who is now a senior scientist with Conservation Science Partners.

The team adapted methods developed for forecasting the effects of climate change on mountain streams. Wetlands usually receive little attention since they are smaller and often out of sight. Yet despite their hidden nature, ponds and wetlands are globally important ecosystems that help store water and carbon, filter pollution, convert nutrients and provide food and habitat to a huge range of migratory and resident species. Their sheer numbers — in the tens of thousands across the Pacific Northwest mountain ranges — make them ecologically significant.

“It’s hard to truly quantify the effects of losing these ponds because they provide so many services and resources to so many species, including us,” Ryan said. “Many people have predicted that they are especially vulnerable to climate change. Our study shows that these concerns are warranted.”

Land managers can use the study’s maps to prepare for climate change. For example, Ryan and co-authors are working with North Cascades National Park, where park biologists are using the wetland projections to evaluate and update priorities for managing introduced fish and restoring natural alpine lake habitat.

###

Other co-authors are professor Joshua Lawler and doctoral student Meghan Halabisky, both in the UW’s School of Environmental and Forest Sciences, and Alan Hamlet at the University of Notre Dame. All co-authors are members of a multi-institutional group studying wetlands adaptation and conservation in the face of climate change that produced a report for the Northwest Climate Science Center and a research brief for Mount Rainier National Park.

The new study was funded by the Department of the Interior’s Northwest Climate Science Center, the David H. Smith Conservation Research Fellowship Program, and the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service’s Pacific Northwest Landscape Conservation Cooperative.

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87 thoughts on “Claim: Climate change could leave Pacific Northwest amphibians high and dry

  1. Yawn yawn yawn.
    If, but, maybe, if, if, if, computer model predictions blah blah blah.
    Proper science please.

    • The most massive post hoc ergo propter hoc logic error in the history of man. The models can’t predict 5 years out, why should we think they will do any better for the next 50 years??

    • Isn’t this called the weather?

      …consequence of this dry year……this summer’s severe conditions….This year is an analog for the 2070s…..Current conditions provide a preview……More years like 2015 do not bode well for the frogs…

      Below is a longer look called the climate.

      Abstract
      Climatic Regionalization and the Spatio-Temporal Occurrence of Extreme Single-Year Drought Events (1500–1998) in the Interior Pacific Northwest, USA
      http://dx.doi.org/10.1006/qres.2002.2376

      Below the mix observations and models then make a prediction fairy tale. Yawn.

      …..We then used these models to a) hindcast historical wetland behavior in response to observed climate variability (1916–2010 or later) and classify wetland types, and b) project the impacts of climate change on montane wetlands using global climate model scenarios for the 2040s and 2080s (A1B emissions scenario). …..
      http://journals.plos.org/plosone/article?id=10.1371/journal.pone.0136385

      Consistent failure to make an accurate fairy tale is their problem.

      • Correction: The following is not a quote but my words.
        ‘Consistent failure to make an accurate fairy tale is their problem.’

      • Oh no, Kermit the Frog is doomed!
        When will global warming destroy Miss Piggy’s purple opera gloves? 🙂

      • J,
        It’s still an El Nino year, so who knows. But the higher elevations have already gotten snow this holiday weekend.

      • Yes it snowed two inches at the top (5,670 ft.) of the Bluewood Ski Area in the Blue Mountains. It will all melt before its next snowfall, but it will run off and collect into some of the surrounding ponds, keeping the frogs and salamanders well hydrated.

    • The mention of the wildfires in the first sentence relates nicely to all the claims of man-caused glo-bull warming/climate change. If “man” is such a powerful decider of global climate, why can’t we quell a simple fire? Hmmm.

  2. “The authors developed a new model” which was based on fundamentally flawed and failed climate models. They may as well have built a house on a bed of sand. Useless garbage.

    • “Amphibians high and dry”?
      How about climate scientistas left high and dry by reality like TimFlam Flannery in Australia ( ‘the dame will never fill again…”) some twerp in the UK ‘children will… sniffle sniffle, never know what snow is … sniffle…’
      but, but…
      “The authors developed a new model”
      ….zzzzzzz

    • From their paper

      …For landscape scale projections of the probability of drying for intermediate wetlands in Washington, we used an ensemble of ten climate change projections from 10 different GCMs forced by the A1B scenarios [17]. We report the average of these results….
      http://journals.plos.org/plosone/article?id=10.1371/journal.pone.0136385

      This reminds me of the average of the IPCC temperature projections. I wonder why I think the above paper is another fail. Look and weep. 🙁
      http://www.energyadvocate.com/gc1.jpg

  3. …and then, in a year or so, when the rain and snow return and the flooding starts, that’s going to kill the newts too. And that will also be global whatsitsname.

    • And…the witches turn everyone into Newts. (Monty Python’s Holy Grail seems more appropriate for all this ‘science’)

      • Newt of the Cascadia region:
        http://www.dfw.state.or.us/species/amphibians/
        Rough-skinned Newt Taricha granulosa
        Rough-skinned newts were named for their dry granular skin―most other salamander species have moist smooth skin. A terrestrial adult newt has a brown head and back with a bright orange belly and can grow to almost eight inches in total length.
        Through the non-breeding season, terrestrial adults live in forested areas along the coast and through to the eastern foothills of the Cascades. They find protection in or under soft logs. For their size, these newts travel relatively long distances between their breeding and non-breeding habitat and may be seen crossing roads during spring and fall as they migrate.

      • Probably not.
        The rough skinned newt’s habitat overlaps much of that favored by salamanders in the PNW. As such they are often in competition for resources. The newts have several natural competative advantages over salamanders and are in the process of taking over from them. A drying climate will add to those advantages, but regardless of what a changing climate may bring, PNW salamanders face a potentially bleak future due to the oldest environmental rule – survival of the fittest.

  4. Eight years of drought here, and fate toads returned with one good spring. Anecdotal, true. But just…what if that IS the way nature works?

    • And look at the water level in the ponds , they are full and show absolutely no sign of being dry at that point and with the snow still there they are still full. We have those were we live and the natural cycle dries them up in August but by late September they are full again, and has nothing to do with ” Climate Change”. Many are fed by artesian wells on top of that!

  5. “They are the natural jesters of the alpine, incredibly tough but incredibly funny and charismatic,” said Maureen Ryan, the other lead author, a former UW postdoctoral researcher who is now a senior scientist with Conservation Science Partners”
    Gimme a break…
    If I attempted to write any such drivel to support any of my university papers, I would have been laughed at, for the above.

    • Speaking of a frog,
      “They are the natural jesters of the alpine, incredibly tough but incredibly funny and charismatic,” said Maureen Ryan
      The lonely lives of climate scientists.
      Pity, that.

  6. Well,it looks like it is a super El Niño year, so if the typical weather associated with it occurs this winter then I am sure these wetlands will be back to ‘normal’ within nine months.
    Of course, if the expected heavy winter rains occur, this will be widely trumpeted as definitive proof of global warming/climate change, however if the drought continues, then this will also be used as definitive proof of global warming/climate change.
    Sigh……………

    • that’s also climate change and “tamperature” recording…. it’s all the fault of the mighty CO2 molecule

      • Broke the code. Whatever happens, it’s bad and it’s the fault of humans in general and Bush in particular.

  7. Gloom, doom, and another imaginary crisis all to get you to give up your freedoms without firing a shot.. You can tell that Paris is drawing near. They will pull out the stops on every nut bag premise no matter how detached from real science it is and the faithful will buy into it….
    The stupid, It burns….

  8. Based on reading the abstract, they studied the wetlands to develop relationships and a model. At that stage the study was likely worthwhile and basic science. They then applied the model based on projected global warming. That part departs from science, but is unfortunately necessary to get funding.

  9. It is interesting how they use anthropomorphic language to heighten the dramatic effect of their ‘findings’. I know that in some quarters I could be shot for saying so, but frankly I can’t get too excited about frogs. However charismatic they may be.

  10. These most vulnerable ponds are the same ones that now provide the best habitat for frogs and salamanders…..
    The best habitat for frogs and salamanders is the smallest most temporary ponds…..because there’s less predictors and disease you morons

    • Yes, Latitude, “The best habitat for frogs and salamanders is the smallest most temporary ponds…..because there’s less predictors and disease you morons” is exactly right, and IF drought continues such as the currently smallest ponds do dry up the most bugs and amphibians will then be found in whichever ponds will have become the smallest, most temporary.
      SR

  11. The coined Warmist term ‘gray swan’ is the latest attempt at a new alarmist meme. The claim that extreme weather, the gray swans, predict the new norm. Like all of the great alarmists, this is another attempt to create panic out of a fairly typical weather cycle by the author miraculously determining that a current deleterious condition, transient in nature, will be the norm fifty years from today.

  12. “This year is an analog for the 2070s in terms of the conditions of the ponds in response to climate,” said Se-Yeun Lee, research scientist at University of Washington’s Climate Impacts Group and one of the lead authors of the study.
    This certainty that these fools know the future of the 2070s is the same sort of superstition that once caused other superstitious men to kill women as “witches” for their causing “bad weather”. There is simply no difference in the level of utter mindless superstition, but one does have to give the witch hunters credit for not saying that they were practicing “science”.

  13. “…According to a new paper published Sept. 2 in the open-access journal PLOS ONE, this summer’s severe conditions may be the new normal within just a few decades…”
    “New normal” is such an idiotic buzzword in climate-speak.
    Since when is 55+ years “within just a few decades?” Why such a need for hyperbole in science?

  14. If the world starts cooling, and majority of glaciers and ice sheets start advancing, I don’t doubt that the alarmists will point to that as an example of man-made climate change. Whether the world is hot or cold, it is always our fault.

  15. You guys are being entirely too harsh.
    Have some compassion, just think what the world will be like for the frog’s grandchildren.

  16. With fewer spotted owls to eat them, the frogs should be happy.
    They managed to survive cold ice ages and warm spells during interglacials a lot hotter than it is going to get in the rest of the Holocene, so they should do well in future.

    • One anecdote I heard (could have been an urban myth) but in the early days, some man was hand-digging a well when he noticed a clump of dirt that was a different color from the surround dirt at several tens of feet down. After shoveling it into the bucket that was drawn up, the person unloading the bucket also noticed the odd colored dirt clod. After a few minutes in the warm sun, that dirt clod up and hopped away as a frog – coming out of hibernating for who knows how long.

  17. More science in the subjunctive mood.
    More dancing around the “may”pole.
    As Stan Laurel used to say, “it could happen”.

  18. Climate models are not skillful with precipitation. Low by half. Regionally downsized climate models are not skillful at anything. Essay Last cup of coffee. What is hurting amphibians worldwide is anthropogenically spread chytridiomycosis, a fungal disease having nothing to do with global warming. Caused extinction of Costa Rica’s golden toad, falsely attributed to CAGW. Essay No Bodies.

  19. Vancouver, BC just experienced one of the driest Summers on record. Scary low reservoir levels, etc. Except… last week was so wet it filled the reservoirs to near normal levels and provided the Summer with an average rainfall. Gotta mess with warmist philosophy on paper.

  20. We are seeing “Doom and Gloom” papers in great abundance here. Paris, need for funding, and all that. But at base, the papers are all the same. Study something, assume GW, extrapolate to the future, find bad results, human causation. These are Formula papers. They are written to a script, just as surely as a TV show.
    That means somebody is writing the script, so all that follows is nothing but propaganda.
    Several days ago, one of the commenters here posted a link to a NOAA “Guidlines” document which spelled out the requirements for funding research proposals. I did not save the link, and wish I had. If anyone has it, or the OP could put it up again, that would be great.
    Thanks, all.

    • Exactly! The ruling recipe for bad but easy-made and career-enhancing science:
      “But at base, the papers are all the same. Study something, assume GW, extrapolate to the future, find bad results, human causation. These are Formula papers. They are written to a script, just as surely as a TV show.”
      … and, as in all modern TV shows, there is a clear goal of social engineering behind the script …

  21. If my students had put something as feeble minded or as blatantly deceiving as this forward to me they would have found themselves repeating the topic next semester. Who allows this drivel to come out of Parisa university and why don’t they have. Sense of Shame?

  22. If only The Onion would run a piece on climate change affecting the sasquatch population, that would about do it for me.

  23. Never before in human history have the verb modifier ‘could’ and the noun ‘model’ come under such huge pressure of usage as in the twenty-first century.

  24. “At risk are …”
    Everything is at risk. Why is the future always worse?
    Udub is at risk for being under a glacier. Of course there is greater risk of being buried in a mud flow when, not if, Mt. Rainier erupts.
    We we visiting friends of my wife who moved to Washington State shortly after Mt. St. Helens demonstrated nature’s awsumness. I went for a walk because they knew more about the nuke plant I worked than I did. They saw looking up from their back yard and asked what was so interesting. My reply was ‘Mt. Rainier and do you know you are living on mud flows from a volcano. Maybe you should not worry about the nuke plant 200 miles away.’

  25. About frogs and toads: I grew up in the Arizona deserts at Kitt Peak.
    When rains come, suddenly there are zillions of tadpoles in every puddle and pond including in rock depressions on the mountain itself. We used to collect some of these to put in our own ponds to watch them turn first into tiny frogs and toads and the grow rapidly in less than two weeks into adults who mate and deposit eggs in the ground for the next monsoon burst of rain.
    THIS IS A DRY DESERT! Yet the noise of these creatures croaking and chirping during the evening is very loud and strong. Drought years: they don’t happen. The 50 year drought during the Little Ice Age, when it ended, the same desert toads and frogs reappeared as if nothing happened.
    Anyone studying any amphibians in the West should know this basic information for it is true for all Western amphibians.

    • listen its worse than that. Any of these guys are familiar with the great Namib Desert. It doesn’t rain there, sometimes for more than a decade. When it does by golly there are all kinds of funny,charismatic, creatures crawling out of hiding and “getting it ON!”

  26. Amphibians that evolved millions of years ago when the earth was very much warmer than today, some of these were bigger than crocodiles!
    All frogs and toads living where the last Ice Age mile thick ice was for over 100,000 years including the frogs in this stilly study about them ‘vanishing’ in the future, are all recent immigrants who have moved northwards only in the last 10,000 years or less.
    Next Ice Age will wipe out all these variations in frog types just like all previous Ice Age events did the same.

  27. Cascades frogs actually stand to benefit from a warmer climate, should one ever recur.
    Their icy habitat doesn’t permit a long growing season, so being able to mate a little earlier would improve their chances of reaching maturity.

  28. The Holocene Climate Optimum was about 2 degrees warmer than today. Those amphibians survived that event.

    • When I water my lawn, it magically grows tiny frogs. I can see why they were once thought spontaneously to generate.

    • Unless their species is less than 114,000 years old, it also survived the Eemian Interglacial, which was even hotter than the Holocene Optimum.

  29. But what if mastodons trampled their environment? The destruction caused by a bellowing herd of these beasts must have been ferocious! Since they also evolved with the Ice Ages, they caused it according to the New Science we now have which reminds me of the Middle Ages when they thought rats formed out of rags thrown on the floor.

  30. I’ve been hiking Mt. Rainier and the Cascade mountains for close to 50 years and one of my more interesting discoveries is a dead forest of huge trees (spruce i think) standing in an alpine meadow/wetland at 4,500 ft. As of 2015, there are no living trees in this valley. The dead trees are massive, with trunks that are 5-6 ft. in diameter at their base and stubby being at most 30 feet tall. This area is snow-free for -/+ probably 5 months of the year. I always wondered when was this forest alive and what were conditions like then? Now that would make a good research paper in my opinion. Yes, a dead tree next to a slab of glacially striated granite…QED? Anyone?
    It hurts me when researchers get public funding to ask ridiculous questions. I’ve seen the character of the National Park Service change over the years where a good percentage of the staff actually believes that “the park” should be closed to humans. And as a UW alumni, the university has devolved into a diploma mill populated by grant hounds.

  31. the sunrise area of mt. rainier received snow at 6600 ft.. White covered the trees, roadway and downhill cars sported 3″ of packed snow on their roofs.
    iron brian

  32. In such studies, scientists must study the scenario under dry and wet conditions and then infer the conclusions as the species are existing for thousands of years under wet and dry conditions. Otherwise such studies have no meaning and journals publishing such papers & peers approving such papers will get poor ratings.
    Dr. S. Jeevananda Reddy

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