As the summer heat is beating down on us, California is once again facing a wildfire. This time it is impacting one of its most famous national parks, Yosemite National Park. The California Oak Fire has spread across more than 16 000 acres of the breathtaking park known for its unique trees and waterfalls (Andone, 2022). The frequency and intensity of the fires continue to increase as a direct result of climate change impacts such as droughts causing vegetation to burn easily (Andone, 2022).
While the California Oak Fire may be one scenario, climate change impacts are actually greatly affecting national parks everywhere. 71% of national parks are affected by the worldwide issue of climate change (Ramirez, 2022). Examples include flooding occurring in Yellowstone National Park, as well as glaciers melting at Glacier National Park which are estimated to disappear within the next 20 years (Ramirez, 2022). Impacts such as flooding and the melting of glaciers can drastically affect the surrounding ecosystems, while bringing many of the places we visit underwater if climate action is not taken (Ramirez, 2022).
Other parks such as Grand Canyon National Park are experiencing lower levels of water due to a megadrought (Ramirez, 2022). This causes issues such as invasive fish species being able to travel through dams and get into the park, in turn posing a threat to the existing native species (Ramirez, 2022). Aside from Grand Canyon National Park, species residing in other parks such as Joshua Tree National Park have also been greatly affected (Ramirez, 2022). This includes species such as the kangaroo rat, cactus mouse, and birds who are all experiencing a decline (Ramirez, 2022).
Many of these national parks hold rich history, culture, and stories that are important for people to know (Ramirez, 2022). Important examples include the Harriet Tubman National Historic Park (Ramirez, 2022). If these areas diminish over time due to climate change effects, it is in a way erasing history. Stories that occurred in these places may no longer be passed down.
Scientists believe animals will eventually be unable to live in these parks and humans will no longer have access (Ramirez, 2022). Overall, this is a complex issue affecting humans, vegetation, and animals at the same time that needs to be taken seriously now. While fire department services are currently working to douse the California Oak Fire, we need to ask ourselves if this is enough to put out the fire that our planet is in (Ramirez, 2022). Therefore, if you are considering where to travel this summer, consider visiting a national park before it is too late. Educate yourself on the history, species, and existing ecosystems in order to work towards preserving them.
Andone, D. (2022, July 26). California’s oak fire has expanded rapidly as it scorches more than 16,000 acres near Yosemite National Park. CNN. Retrieved July 27, 2022, from https://www.cnn.com/2022/07/25/us/oak-fire-yosemite-mariposa-county-monday/index.html
Ramirez, R. (2022, July 10). How the Climate Crisis is Forever Changing Our National parks. CNN. Retrieved July 27, 2022, from https://www.cnn.com/2022/07/02/us/national-parks-climate-extreme-weather-impacts/index.html