Earth Day is April 22nd, and this year the focus of the celebration is on the Faces of Climate Change. While climate change may be abstract for a lot of people, we are observing effects of climate change in coastal North Carolina in the red wolf recovery area. The coastal plain habitats in the northeastern North Carolina reintroduction site are slowly sinking while sea level is rising. T. Delene Beland recently wrote an article on how climate change may impact red wolf recovery. Some experts consider Alligator River National Wildlife Refuge ground zero for sea level rise. Forests are being converting to salt meadows and marshes. While pond pines are suffering from salt intrusion and dying back, marsh grasses and in some cases, invasive species like Phragmites, are moving into these newly formed marshes. This has immediate impacts for this area, as the eastern portion of the peninsula has an average elevation of a few feet above sea level. You can use the interactivegraphic on this site to or more would look like on the peninsula.
How would these changes affect red wolves? Sea level rise means less available habitat as the peninsula contracts—up to a third of the current recovery area would be affected over the next century. While red wolves are generalists and can eat a variety of prey, sea level rise also presents the dilemma of disappearing habitat and prey.
How has climate change impacted you? What are you doing to be part of the solution?