Climate change & pestilence
Climate change is making it more miserable, and dangerous, to enjoy the woods and fields of Minnesota.
Citing from the best available science, a report from the National Wildlife Federation says climate change is increasing the numbers of mosquitoes, ticks, poison ivy and other obnoxious pests and plants, making the outdoor experience less enjoyable.
Mae Davenport of the University of Minnesota is researching climate readiness in nature-based tourism-dependent communities.
She noted, “We are especially concerned about climate-related impacts to recreation, because recent statewide surveys show that participation in some recreation activities is on the decline.
Minnesotans blamed lack of time, cost and effort, and outdoor pests.
The report, called “Ticked Off: The Outdoor Experience and Climate Change,” says shorter winters, warmer summers, and more severe weather conditions all contribute to the abundance of outdoor pests.
These pests can transmit diseases to people and pets.
And without concerted action, things will only get worse.
The report examines climate change’s impacts on six species in Minnesota:
Deer Ticks: Warmer winters are allowing expansion of the range of deer tick populations faster than projected, increasing the exposure to ticks and raising the risk of Lyme disease.
More algae: Warmer rivers, streams and lakes could be hit with more algae that thrive in warm waters and deplete the oxygen fish need to survive. Heavier rain events will increase runoff and add nutrients that fuel more algal growth and more 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 CO2 levels, it produces a more allergenic form of urushiol, the toxic chemical that causes rashes in people.
Stink bugs: Longer summers bring more of these insects, causing harm to popular backyard garden crops like tomatoes, beans, berries, asparagus, sweet corn, peppers and more.
Tiger mosquito: Warmer temperatures cause earlier emergence of tiger mosquitoes in the spring, which leads to more mosquito generations each year. Tiger mosquitoes can transmit 30 different viruses to humans, including West Nile virus.
Winter ticks: A warming climate will increase the numbers of winter ticks that infect animals like moose, elk, caribou and white-tailed deer. The larvae of winter ticks feed on their host animals in all their stages.
What’s to be done? The report has these suggestions:
Address the underlying cause and cut carbon pollution by supporting the Clean Power Plan, which will establish limits on the amount of carbon pollution released by power plants.
Transition to clean, wildlife-friendly sources of energy like offshore wind, solar power and next-generation biofuels and avoid polluting energy like coal and tar sands oil.
Safeguard wildlife and their habitats by promoting climate-smart approaches to conservation and expanding protections to key land and seascapes.
Help communities become resilient and respond to the impacts of climate change such as rising sea levels, more extreme weather and more severe droughts.