New Study Shows Persistence of Meltwater Biodiversity Despite Glacier Loss


Glaciers are retreating in Glacier National Park and across the globe due to climate change.

Researchers have long predicted that the shrinkage and disappearance of glaciers will reduce biodiversity in mountain ecosystems as species that live in habitats influenced by glacier meltwater are lost.

However, a new study shows that a specialized community of cold-water invertebrates unexpectedly has persisted in the high-elevation streams of Glacier National Park, even in areas deglaciated since the Little Ice Age, nearly 170 years ago. The study was led by Clint Muhlfeld, a U.S. Geological Survey research ecologist and associate research professor at the University of Montana’s Flathead Lake Biological Station.

“This study is unique,” Muhlfeld said. “It’s the first to directly assess the impacts of glacier loss on the persistence of a large number of species across a mountainous region.”

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Image via University of Montana