Study examines effects of receding glaciers on streams

Jun 3, 2013

A study, published in the journal Western North American Naturalist, examines how receding glaciers are affecting stream ecosystems in the Wind River Range.

Report co-author Craig Thompson says they studied bugs and other small organisms living in high alpine streams, and they looked at what happens when floods, caused by melting glaciers, wash the organisms downstream.

“We would anticipate that it would take them quite a while to re-colonize these areas that were disturbed by this flood event,” Thompson said. “And in fact, they re-colonized much quicker than we anticipated.”

Thompson says that means these tiny ecosystems are very resilient when faced with the pressures of climate change.

Credit John Scurlock

He says his next goal is to study whether entire alpine ecosystems are as resilient, and then look at areas downstream of the glaciers to see how they are affected by climate change.