RMNP research administrator Terry Terrell predicted tundra will disappear from the Park within a generation.
"The trees will march right on up to the top.People need to realize that we're seeing very stable things changing," she
Statewide drought conditions brought on by changes in global climate are a direct result of global warming, which results from a petroleum-based "disposable" society.
"We are causing this, based on our life choices," Terrell
said some climate change models predict Estes Park
will experience increased temperatures of four to five degrees for winter and two to five degrees for summer by the year 2020, just over 15 years from now.
Along with the increased temperatures, fewer but more intense storms are predicted.
"The studies are designed to get people to plan based on global climate changes," Terrell
The current effects of the drought on RMNP
are extensive and wide-spread, and will affect aquatic and terrestrial wildlife as well as plants and trees, according to information Terrell
said volunteers monitoring butterfly numbers counted 100 insects last summer in areas where the count was previously 300."That's two-thirds fewer," Terrell
With the local elk and mule deer populations starving and reports of recent migrations to lower elevations including west Loveland and Masonville where they come in contact with diseased animals suffering from chronic wasting disease, Terrell
is warning residents to expect large die offs this spring.She
cautioned against trying to help the stricken animals by feeding them.
"Wild animals like these can't lose 25 percent of their body mass and then regain it," she
Bears are more likely to come into contact with people as they awaken from their hibernation hungrier than ever.As the influx of people into the Estes Valley increasingly displaces bears from their territories, Terrell
advises extra consideration when putting out trash before regular pick up times.
Aquatic species, such as the protected greenback cutthroat trout in Lily Lake, are suffocating in shallow water where oxygen levels have been compromised by recent heavy snow atop the ice.Though oxygen levels are being boosted artificially, the snow that is blocking sunlight from penetrating the ice is preventing photosynthesis from occurring within the lake's aquatic vegetation, which is robbing the greenbacks of oxygen.
Twice weekly, volunteers drill holes in the ice to measure water depth and many report finding only ice and no water.
The Park is home to two historic genetic sources of greenback cutthroat breeding stock, Como Creek in Allenspark and Hunters Creek in Wild Basin.Last summer, Terrell
said, the Como Creek population was nearly evacuated due to record drops in the creek's water level.
So rare is this phenomenon that Terrell
said none of the RMNP
staff had ever seen it.She
suspected the melting occurred over several years and finally broke through to the blue ice last summer.
Perhaps the most vivid example of the drought's effect on RMNP
came during last summer's fires.
"We thought we wouldn't see a fire cross the Continental Divide, but it did last summer.Our fire model doesn't include tundra," Terrell