Redwood National Park hugs California’s Pacific Coast, providing protection for the serene coastline and its inhabitants. Unfortunately, this crab is no longer in need of such protection, but will soon be food for other invertebrates of the sea or the gulls and crows that patrol the beaches in search of a meal.
To grow so large, the Redwood Trees in Redwood National Park need an abundant source of water, and rely on frequent rains year round to supply it. The massive redwoods are able to manufacture their own rain, in a way, by trapping the iconic fog that rolls off of the Pacific Ocean and onto mainland California in their branches. This accounts for 25%-40% of the moisture they absorb, because the redwoods are actually able to absorb moisture through both their root systems and their leaves: the first plants discovered to be able to do so. However, the fog is disappearing. The urban heat-island effect is a term that refers to a city’s ambient temperature being much higher than surrounding rural temperatures due to the heat that is produced and trapped by the asphalt, concrete, and metal that make up the majority of an urban environment. As urban centers continue to expand along the coast of California and Oregon, they continue to reduce the amount of vital fog that is afforded to the redwood forests.
This gorgeous view awaited at the top of an 8.2 mile hike and a climb of 3000’. Even in mid July, snow dusts the peaks of the mountains and rests on top of glaciers in Olympic National Park. However, as global temperatures continue to rise due to climate change, this snow-topped view may be lost forever--as soon as twenty years from now--according to the most recent scientific projections.
This small waterfall spilling over the edge of a cliff in Olympic National Park is part of the over 3,500 miles of glacier fed streams and rivers. However, as glaciers in the park continue to shrink due to rising temperatures, we could see a dramatic decline in the size and amount of these streams and rivers, which would have devastating effects on the ecosystems they support. These streams and rivers are spawning grounds to some of the largest salmon populations in the lower forty-eight states. These salmon support predators such as eagles and brown bears that rely on the salmon as a vital source of protein.
A starfish stretches out across a rock above a tidal pool on Ruby Beach in Olympic National Park. The tidal pools of Olympic National Park are filled with these purple and orange invertebrates. However, as global sea and atmosphere temperatures continue to rise, this may no longer by the case. Since, at low tide, intertidal animals are exposed to the atmospheric temperatures—which are rising quicker than sea temperatures—we may see a shift in their population away from Olympic’s coast to colder environments in Canada.
Coastal cliffs tower over Ruby Beach in Olympic National Park, watching over its coastline. The park hosted a major Dam Removal project in 2011 in which two nearly century old dams were removed from the Elwha river. The estuary had been starved, but since the dams’ removal was completed in August of 2014, the mouth of the river rose ten feet, and thousands of tons of trapped sediment flowed freely into the ocean, bringing with it vital nutrients that had been locked behind the dams for decades and revitalizing a habitat for Dungeness Crabs and clams.
Yosemite, which is about the size of Rhode Island, is home to over 400 species of animals—some newly discovered and thought only to exist in the Yosemite ecosystem—and over 1000 plant species. Unfortunately, some of these plant species are being put at risk—by other plants. Invasive plant species are one of the largest threats to Yosemite’s biodiversity, and they arrive in the park hidden on the socks, shoelaces, tires, and pet fur of the more than four million visitors that make the pilgrimage to Yosemite annually.
Yosemite National Park is one of our country’s most popular National Parks, drawing in over four million visitors per year. People flock to the park in great numbers hoping to experience the serene beauty of unaltered nature that our National Parks Service works to provide its guests. However, when visitors come in such great numbers, it is often difficult to have the desired experience; especially when you’re surround by one hundred other people also trying to observe the natural beauty around them. One solution is rising early—around four a.m.—to catch the park at sunrise. Visitor traffic is at a minimum, as is the noise. This means that more animals are out and about, which increases the chances of a once in a lifetime encounter.
As the sun sets on the Going to the Sun Road in Glacier National Park, a male mountain goat investigates a potential grazing spot on the side of the road. Drivers in Glacier National Park need to be hyper aware of their surroundings; especially at dawn and dusk, when much of the park’s animal population is active and feeding.
In the summer months streams and waterfalls cascade down the side of the Rocky Mountains in Glacier National Park, feeding its lakes and rivers and slowly eroding their path into the mountainside. These streams and waterfalls are fed by glacier melt-water, which could soon be a thing of the past. Glaciers shrinking from increased temperature and decreased precipitation have been widely reported across the globe. However, the average rise in temperature in Glacier National Park is two degrees Fahrenheit: twice that of the global average. These raised temperatures increase the rate at which glaciers melt in the summer months, and decrease the amount of snowfall that covers and replenishes the glaciers, effectively destroying the icy giants that shaped the Rocky Mountains themselves. Only twenty-five of the one hundred and fifty glaciers that existed in Glacier National Park in 1910 remain.
While for much of the year Glacier National Park’s northern Montana mountains are covered in snow, in the brief summer months when the snow retreats the sun drenched slopes of these mountains explode with vast fields of colorful wildflowers that range in color from yellows and reds to various hues of purple and blue. All these flowers attract a healthy insect population, which park visitors must brave in order to capture views such as this.
Summer storms in Glacier National Park are swift and unpredictable, especially for park visitors in the valleys between the mountains. One moment the sky can be a pristine clear blue, and the next moment a rumbling can shake the earth as dark and foreboding storm clouds spill over the peaks.
A geyser sits in the shallow waters of Yellowstone Lake. Yellowstone is different from many National Parks because in much of the park, guests are restricted to exploring the park from the safety of boardwalks. On the boardwalk that led to this geyser a sign warned patrons of the park from throwing coins and other small items into the geyser. These small pieces of debris eventually become encased in minerals and can eventually lead to a clogged geyser. Unfortunately much of what threatens a National Park are the guests that it is meant to inspire and amaze.
Yellowstone National Park is most known for its geysers, of which there are more than anywhere else in the world. The geysers are a result of an ancient volcanic caldera that rests under Yellowstone’s surface. The heat from the caldera superheats water that rests under the surface of Yellowstone. Pressure builds as temperatures rise, ultimately resulting in a violent eruption of steam and boiling water from a vent in the earth’s crust.
The North American bison in the largest land mammal on the continent, and Yellowstone National Park is home to the largest population of these animals on public land. It is because of this that restoration of the species—which was on the brink of extinction nearly a century ago—has been so successful. In 1902 Yellowstone’s heard was reduced to merely two-dozen. As of July 2015, the heard reached 4900.
Fresh after a storm two rainbows arch over the entrance to Zion Canyon in Zion National Park. Tiny water droplets suspended in the humid summer air mingle with the fading evening sunlight to reveal the visible spectrum of light in a fantastic image that has been revered as a sign of good things to come since biblical times: a fitting image for a place named Zion.
The lovely hues of pink, red, and yellow that color these storm clouds in Zion National Park are in part a result of the air pollution that has begun to plague the park. As the sun sets, its light rays must travel further through the atmosphere to reach our eyes, so shorter wavelength colors such as blues and violets are scattered out, leading to more brilliant reds and oranges. The park works to cut down on air pollution and traffic by only allowing its own system of busses to traverse the valley, rather than allowing each visitor to drive their own car through the park.
Over the edge of the cliff and past this daring chipmunk lies Zion Valley, Zion National Park’s main attraction. The valley was formed by the persistent and consistent flow of the Virgin River, which over thousands of years eroded the rock that now forms the cliffs that rise up on either side of it. Global climate change is causing temperatures to rise and precipitation to decrease—scientists say by up to 40%—in the southwestern United States. If precipitation decreases, the steady flow of Zion’s Virgin River may be disrupted, and the force that shaped this breathtaking canyon will no longer be able to continue that natural formation process.
Found exclusively in the Mojave Desert, the Joshua Tree must undergo a dormant period during cold weather in order to flower. Unfortunately, due to rising temperatures and frequent drought across the southwestern United States, these necessary cold periods and wet seasons are becoming more and more scarce, and effective blooming periods for the Joshua Tree’s flowers are beginning to become few and far between. For those lucky seeds that are pollinated and dispersed, germination is just the beginning of their struggle in the arid Mojave climate. Young Joshua trees don’t have the extensive root network and water storing capabilities of adult plants, and are therefore much less likely to survive particularly hot, dry years. It doesn’t help that the tree only grows about 2” to 3” per year, and can take between fifty and sixty years to mature.
A new moon left the skies exceptionally dark over Joshua Tree National Park one night in July. Joshua Tree has some of the darkest skies in California, but urban encroachment has led to more cities lighting up the dark night skies.