The rapid retreatment of glaciers is altering more than just the physical landscape according to a recent analysis. Species that are living in streams and rivers flowing from the melting glaciers could start disappearing to the point of being extinct
if half of the glacial cover in a region is lost.
A team of scientists looked at the diversity of insect larvae in water in 103 different sites that were flourishing through glacial waters in the European Alps, Ecuadorian Andes and Alaska’s coastal mountains. The scientists compared the number of species
to the percentage of glacier cover in the catchment areas.
In areas that have high glacial cover, several species are at risk of disappearing when this cover drops to 50%. Furthermore, if this cover in all three regions was to disappear, around 9 to 14 species would become extinct, representing 11% of the biodiversity
in Ecuador, 38% in Alaska and 16% in the Alps.
Many small invertebrates only survive in this environment and these findings were later published in the Nature Climate Change.
To some extent, the Alpine invertebrates have not been studied a lot and it’s only recent that the effects of these climatic changes have been properly studied and later discovered.
What’s even more problematic is the fact that the conservation options for these species are limited to only these areas. Relocation and habitat restoration is not an option which puts these species under a lot of risk.
Most of the world’s glaciers are retreating slowly and a study concludes that glaciers located in Mexico and South America have already retreated by 30% since the mid-1980s which is an alarming statistic.
Another analysis has suggested that by the 2100, most of the world’s smaller glaciers will become history.
Each year, glaciers in Ecuador retreat by about 15 m.