Working to keep the West special

Disrupted Ecosystems


Climate change could make major changes in the character of our mountains and other ecosystems and in the abundance and variety of life they support.

The Rocky Mountains' famous wildflowers, meadows, and expanses of mountain-top tundra could all be greatly reduced, or perhaps almost vanish, as a result of climate change. So could many alpine species of animals and plants. For example, researchers near Crested Butte, Colorado -- the state's official wildflower capital -- have found by artificially warming mountain meadows with heat lamps that higher temperatures reduce wildflowers and lead to more sagebrush.

“We're projecting, from these experiments, there's going to be a tremendous decline in the abundance of the flowers. You think of meadows strewn with gorgeous flowers. Many of those flowering plants are going to be decimated.''

Dr. John Harte, University of California, Berkeley

For more information on disrupted ecosystems resulting from a changed climate, see pages 19-24 of our report National Parks in Peril: The Threats of Climate Disruption and pages 21-28 of our report Hotter and Drier: The West's Changed Climate. More details are also available in our reports Greater Yellowstone in Peril and Glacier National Park in Peril.