Ticked Off: America's Outdoor Experience and Climate Change

"Ticked Off " was produced by the National Wildlife Federation to detail how certain species of plants or animals are being directly impacted by climate change, as well as how those species in turn affect their ecosystems, and us. 

The brief report describes how much Americans utilize and enjoy the outdoors, and how climate change is already impacting our experiences in nature. The species that are described here are primarily pests whose populations will grow exponentially, and irreversibly harm entire natural systems as well as our outdoor experiences.

To summarize, this list reviews the eight focal species and how they are impacted:

Deer Ticks and Winter Ticks: Warmer winters are allowing expansion of the range of deer tick populations faster than projected, increasing the exposure of Americans to ticks and raising the risk of Lyme disease. Meanwhile, exploding populations of winter ticks have devastated moose populations in northern New England.

Tiger Mosquitoes: The number of people in New England exposed to the tiger mosquito could double to about 30 million. Tiger mosquitoes can transmit 30 different viruses to humans, including West Nile virus.

Fire Ants: These ants could advance from the Southeast northward by about 80 miles and spread in total area by 21 percent, threatening people with painful bites and invading the ground nests of the bobwhite quail, a key species for sportsmen.

Algal Blooms: Warmer rivers, streams and lakes are being hit with more outbreaks of toxic algae that thrive in warm waters and deplete the oxygen fish need to survive. Heavier downpours are increasing nutrient-heavy runoff that fuels more algal growth and oxygen depletion.

Poison Ivy: More carbon dioxide in the atmosphere is accelerating the growth and increasing the abundance of vines like poison ivy. With higher carbon dioxide levels in the air, poison ivy produces a more allergenic form of urushiol, the toxic chemical that causes those irritating rashes.

Jellyfish: Jellyfish blooms, wherein massive numbers of jellyfish occur, are considered to be a natural phenomenon of healthy ecosystems, however, jellyfish blooms are expected to become more frequent and more severe as the climate changes. Already, in Chesapeake Bay jellyfish blooms are being reported earlier in spring and later in fall as the water has warmed.

Stink bugs: Two species of non-native invasive stink bugs are on the rise. The brown marmorated stink bug population has exploded in the past decade, widely invading fields, forests, crops and homes in the Central Atlantic Region, and may become more devastating with increased temperatures.  The kudzu stink bug may actually help control the kudzu vine, considered the “plant that ate the South,” with both the vine and the bug on the rise as invasive species – aided by a warming climate. 

 

Publication Date: August 19, 2014

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Resource Types:

  • Assessment

Impacts:

  • Air temperature
  • Invasive species and pests
  • Water quality
  • Water temperatures

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