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From Changing Landscapes in the Chicago Wilderness Region: A Climate Change Update to the Biodiversity Recovery Plan
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TABLE 1: Climate Change Impacts to Taxonomic Groups of Animals

INVERTEBRATES Existing Conservation Issues Expected Climate Change Impacts
  • Habitat degradation


  • Habitat fragmentation
  • As invertebrate populations respond to climate change, their impacts to ecosystem services will likely change. Invertebrates likely to be most sensitive to climate change, and possibly diminish their ecosystem services, are those with narrow niche/low plasticity/low tolerance for food, temperature, moisture, etc, those at higher trophic levels, particularly specialists, and those that are sessile (e.g., non-free moving).


  • Invertebrates that are likely to have greater impacts on ecosystems are: pollinators (bees, butterflies, beetles), pests (fast outbreaking, invasive), dominants (ants, beetles), keystone species, multiple trophic levels (ants, beetles), generalists, and longer-lived organisms (particularly for C sequestration).


  • Soil warming may be beneficial for certain species of earthworms. For example, Enchytraeid worms in peatland habitats have been found to increase in abundance (43% based on an increase in mean monthly air temperatures of 2.5 °C) while species of non-native Lumbricid earthworms (e.g., Lumbricus terrestris) appear to be tolerant of slight increases (2° C), in habitat temperature. Increases in abundance, or even general tolerance, in response to soil warming may allow non-native species like Lumbricus to further shift soil properties in a direction that is less suitable for certain forest trees, ferns and wildflowers.


  • Climate change will likely exacerbate the threat of habitat loss and fragmentation. Because of this species that depend on specific habitats that are already threatened due to habitat loss may face the greatest losses from climate change. One example is the endangered Karner Blue Butterfly (Lycaeides melissa) that occurs along the Indiana Dunes National Lakeshore. The larvae feed only on the wild lupine plant (Lupinus perennis).


  • Insects migrate in many different scales ranging from a few meters to hundreds of kilometers. Dispersal limited species, especially those that are habitat specialists, will face the greatest difficulty. Species like Papaipema eryngia, a root-borer moth that lives only in the roots of rattle-snake master (Eryngium yuccifolium), that are trapped within isolated patches already will be most challenged.


  • Earlier emergence of insects may occur due to an earlier spring warm-up. Many insects are food specialists, however, and it is possible for insects and host plants to respond differently to climate change, creating a timing mismatch for resource availability.


  • Earlier insect emergence could in turn lead to another timing mismatch for birds or some fish species that rely on insects, reducing food availability in late summer/early fall and possibly lowering late nesting success for some bird species.
FISH
  • Worsening water quality (defined by vegetation, water temperature, nutrient quality, sedimentation, flow, substrate, etc…)


  • Fragmentation of aquatic habitats


  • Competition with non-native species
  • The few cold-water fish populations that occur in the region are already doing poorly, and warmer water temperatures will likely exacerbate the situation. Warmer water temperatures may also threaten cool-water fish species in rivers, such as smallmouth bass and walleye.


  • Species like the Asian Carp (Bighead, Hypophthalmichthys nobilis, and Silver, Hypophthalmichthys molitrix) and Tilapia that prefer warmer-water habitats will likely gain more of a foothold as water temperatures continue to increase.


  • Increased flooding may benefit some species by allowing increased movement and dispersal pathways. Conversely, it may harm species by allowing easier dispersal for competitors, predators and invasives.
REPTILES
  • Low recruitment due to high predation rates on eggs and juveniles


  • Mortality due to roadways, reduced habitat extent, composition and structure, disturbance and habitat fragmentation


  • Reduced population genetic diversity
  • The body temperature of reptiles varies with the temperature of their surroundings. This temperature sensitive physiology suggests reptile ranges may shift with temperature change.


  • The Chicago Wilderness region is the northern range of most reptiles, which could mean an increase in species diversity to our area as temperature increases. However, many reptiles have short dispersal distances that would be further challenged by increasing habitat fragmentation.


  • Increased temperatures may have a positive effect on growth rates of certain reptiles, such as painted turtles that are known to grow larger in warmer years and reach sexual maturity faster, potentially increasing lifetime reproductive success.


  • Temperature increases may also have a negative effect. For example, warmer temperatures lead to reduced snow cover, which normally protects hibernating turtles from the killing effects of rapid ambient temperature changes, resulting in dead hatchlings and reduced population density.


  • Temperature changes may influence the range of acceptable temperatures for lizard species, altering thermoregulation behavior patterns annually. One outcome of this may be reduced daytime activity periods in a daily cycle and a reduced ability to obtain food and mates. In this situation, species might shift to nocturnal or crepuscular behavior, or risk decreased population density and possible local extinction.


  • For some reptiles, such as turtles, temperature plays a significant role in sex-determination. Genetic analyses and behavioral data on painted turtles (Chrysemys pica) suggest that populations with temperature-dependent sex determination may be unable to evolve rapidly enough to counteract the negative fitness consequences of rapid global temperature change. Skewed sex ratios for rare species like Blanding's Turtle (Emydoidea blandingii) could threaten their remaining populations.


  • Warmer winters may affect some species’ ability to survive hibernation.
AMPHIBIANS
  • Low recruitment


  • Reduced habitat extent


  • Habitat degradation (e.g., pollution)


  • Altered hydrology and habitat structure and composition


  • Habitat fragmentation
  • Like reptiles, amphibians are ectotherms. Environmental variables influence aspects of development, reproduction and survival and are thus closely linked with species’ range and abundance.


  • Due to their high sensitivity to environmental threats throughout different life stages, there has been a worldwide decline of amphibians. Climate change is expected to aggravate the existing threats that species face such as water and air pollution and habitat destruction.


  • There is debate as to role climate change has played in the emergence of the Chytrid fungus that is decimating amphibian populations worldwide. But in general, rapid climate fluctuations can affect immune suppression, making amphibians more susceptible to this fungus.


  • Amphibians show rapid responses to availability of temporary ponds and are known to adjust development rates based on risk of pond desiccation. Changing patterns of precipitation, in particular having fewer and more intense rain events, could lead to reduced availability of suitable microhabitats.


  • The onset of frog and toad calling has occurred earlier over time in certain populations, and is positively correlated with spring temperature. This suggests populations and distributions will shift significantly as air and water temperatures change. However, because dispersal pathways may be severely limited and compounded further by habitat fragmentation, it is likely that local populations will require assisted migration in order to survive.


  • An earlier spring warm-up may lead amphibians to respond by emerging earlier, but if there is a freeze risk it increases the likelihood of a population-wide mass mortality event. Even if amphibians emerged during freeze free periods, their survival is highly dependent on whether food resources are available during this time. The possibility of a timing mismatch for food resources exists that could jeopardize survival.


  • Warmer winters may affect some species’ ability to survive hibernation.
BIRDS
  • Reduced habitat extent


  • Altered habitat composition and structure


  • Habitat fragmentation


  • Invasive plants


  • Low recruitment due to high predation rate of eggs and juveniles


  • Mortality due to human structures and infrastructures (windows and turbines)
  • Although birds are typically more generalized than other groups, such as insects, their migration and reproduction can be impacted by climate change. Strong dispersal ability and migratory behavior will allow better response to changing climate and vegetation than most groups of organisms through range changes; the expectation is to see substantial shifts in many bird species ranges both during breeding season and wintering season.


  • Changes in wintering grounds (more northerly wintering sites) may lead to winter populations of some species at higher risk of extreme weather conditions.


  • While birds primarily respond to photoperiod cues to time migration, many species are returning earlier in spring, possibly in response to changes in temperature. In Illinois, species that winter closer to Illinois are more likely to return earlier than those that winter further away. As such, earlier initiation of breeding in some species is expected.


  • Species such as chimney swifts (Chaetura pelagica) have adjusted migration timing to return three weeks earlier compared to the 1930’s, and leave one month later. This may be tied to earlier emergence of daytime flying insects, a major prey item.


  • Generally, the predominance of photoperiod clues in birds, compared to higher temperature sensitivity in plants and insects could lead to phenological mismatches in a complicated way, especially in systems where the birds are utilizing insects that are changing independently of a particular food plant.


  • Snakes are major nest predators, earlier warm-up could lead to increased snake activity early in season, reducing nesting success.
MAMMALS
  • Reduced habitat extent


  • Habitat fragmentation


  • Disturbance of hibernacula to wintering bats
  • Mammals are homeothermic, allowing them to inhabit cooler habitats than reptiles and amphibians. However, warmer temperatures have been shown to influence mammalian growth and size in various ways. Overall growth and size declines in certain species like the Eastern wood rat (Neotoma floridana) found in southern Illinois, while some deer species (e.g., Cervus elaphus) show faster growth during warmer springs leading to increased adult body size, which is positively correlated with reproductive success.


  • Shorter and warmer winters may allow the northern limit of winter ranges for bats to extend northward because it would allow their autumn fat reserves to last through a shorter hibernation period.


  • However, while the climate may allow for shorter hibernation durations further north, a lower availability of flying insects in the fall for food resources may hinder their ability to survive hibernation.


  • While many mammals are highly mobile and able to rapidly shift their distribution, the potential for reduced synchrony with key resources along migration routes may make them particularly vulnerable to the impacts of climate change.

Data Sources:

  1. Illinois Comprehensive Wildlife Conservation Plan and Strategy. 2005. Illinois Department of Natural Resources.
  2. North American Wildlife Society Technical Review 04-02. 2004. Global Climate Change and Wildlife in North America. The Wildlife Society
    of America.
  3. Humphries, M. Thomas, D. and Speakman, J. 2002. Climate-mediated energetic constraints on the distribution of hibernating mammals. Nature
    418:313-316.
  4. Rohr, J., Raffel, T., Romansic, J., McCallum, H. and Hudson, P. 2008. Evaluating the links between climate, disease spread, and amphibian
    declines. PNAS 105(45):17436-17441.
  5. US Long Term Ecological Research Network Workshop September 15, 2009: Invertebrate Ecosystem Services and Climate Change.
  6. Khan M. A. Q., Ahmed, S., Salazar, A., Gurumendi, J., Khan, A., Vargas, M., and von Catalin, B. 2007. Effect of temperature on
    heavy metal toxicity to earthworm Lumbricus terrestris (Annelida: Oligochaeta). Environmental Toxicology 22(5):487 – 494.
  7. Cole, L., Bardgett, R., Ineson, P., and Adamson, J. 2002. Relationships between enchytraeid worms (Oligochaeta), climate change, and the
    release of dissolved organic carbon from blanket peat in northern England. Soil Biology and Biochemistry 34(5):599-607.
  8. Interviews with local experts regarding how climate change is likely to affect taxonomic groups in the CW region (J. Louderman, A. Resetar, D.
    Stotz, and P. Willink).


TABLE 2: Detailed table of Chicago Wilderness Community Type and Climate Change Impacts.

Community Divisions Existing Conservation Issues Expected Climate Change Impacts
ALL TERRESTRIAL COMMUNITIES

➢ Hydrologic change


➢ Fragmentation


➢ Habitat loss and land conversion


➢ Altered fire regimes


➢ Nutrient loading and pollution


➢ Erosion and sedimentation


➢ Invasive species


➢ Loss of structural diversity

  • Warmer temperatures, especially higher winter minimum temps, may promote expansion of non-native species into our region.


  • Warmer temperatures may promote range shifts in sensitive species. Some species will be constrained in their response by lack of connected habitats through which to move, and others will be constrained by habitat loss, lack of mobility, or lack of genetic variation.


  • Increased temperatures will likely favor warmer and drier-biome plant species and stress colder and wetter-biome species, possibly leading to overall changes in species diversity and structural composition.


  • Warmer temperatures along with increased evaporation rates may lead to altered fire regimes. In particular, the potential for more natural fires or a higher risk associated with using prescribed burning.


  • Species will respond in complex ways, and many key interactions may be disrupted (e.g. through mismatches in phenological shifts, or rate of range shifts).


  • New pests/pathogens, or increased abundance of current pests, may occur due to increased length of the growing season and/or extra generation of insects.
Community Divisions Existing Biodiversity Recovery Plan
Conservation Targets in Top Tiers
Additional Expected Climate Change Impacts
WETLANDS
Six communities types: marshes, bogs, fens, sedge meadows, panes, seeps and springs.

First (highest) tier

  • Gramimoid fen
  • Panne


Second tier

  • Basin marsh
  • Calcareous floating mat
  • Calcareous seep
  • Streamside marsh


Third tier

  • Forested fen
  • Sedge meadow
  • Changes in precipitation patterns and increases in evaporation rates are likely to greatly impact all wetland communities.


  • Bogs are glacial-relict wetlands restricted to hydrologically isolated kettles as their sole source of water and may be reduced due to increased evaporation rates in summer.


  • Sedge meadows use ground water seepage and/or shallow flooding as principle hydrologic factors. Increased temperatures and lake level drops may increase the pressure on groundwater resources, potentially drying out and threatening the existence of this system in our region.


  • Fen communities may be particularly vulnerable because they are created and maintained by a continual internal flow of ground water that will likely be reduced from higher temperatures and a greater demand on groundwater resources, threatening their existence in this region.


  • Increased storm intensity and flooding may increase non-point source pollution from agriculture/urban areas, threatening the water quality for all wetlands.


  • Increased flooding, especially with long residence time, could kill or limit the extent of emergent vegetation in marshes. Conversely, summer droughts could allow a different assemblage of species to establish under drier conditions.


  • It is possible that wetlands may begin to dry out, which will in turn further fragment and stress remaining wetland habitats.
PRAIRIES
* Four communities based on soil type: fine-textured-soil type, sand prairie, gravel prairie, and dolomite prairie
  • There are soil moisture gradients for each type ranging from dry to wet (except gravel prairies, which range only from dry to mesic

First (highest) tier

  • Sand prairie (all subtypes in dune & swale topography)
  • Dolomite prairies (all subtypes)
  • Fine-textured-soil prairie (all subtypes)


Second Tier

  • Gravel prairie (all subtypes)
  • Sand prairies (other than those in dune and swale topography)
  • Increasing temperatures, changes in precipitation patterns and increased evaporation during the summer months are likely to greatly challenge wetter sand and wetter fine-textured–soil prairies. Wet and wet-mesic plants like small sundrops (Oenothera perennis), listed as endangered in Illinois, and the federally threatened white-fringed orchid (Platanthera leucophaea) could suffer great losses.


  • The precise way in which species composition in prairies may be altered due to higher CO2 levels is still unclear. Many tall grass prairie species have a C4 photosynthesis physiology that allows them to be more efficient compared to trees, shrubs and cool-season grasses with a C3 physiology. Because of this, C3 plants may benefit more from an increase in atmospheric CO2 than C4 plants, potentially giving them a competitive advantage.


  • However, C4 plants have historically fared better in more arid environments than C3 plants, which may give them an edge as prairies become drier. Increased growth and reproduction will ultimately depend on additional factors such as soil nutrient availability, precipitation and temperature. These differences in competitive abilities, and potential for changes in relative advantage over time means that managers need to be more agile in their management because it is really hard to say what might happen with this situation.


  • Conversion of prairie grasslands for biofuel harvesting is likely to further exacerbate habitat loss and fragmentation.
SAVANNA COMMUNTIES
* Two community types: fine-textured-soil savannas and sand savannas
  • Subtypes are distinguished by soil moisture. Fine-textured-soil savannas subtypes are dry-mesic, mesic and wet-mesic. Sand subtypes are dry, dry-mesic, and mesic

First (highest) tier

  • Fine-textured-soil savanna (all subtypes)
  • Mesic sand savanna


Second tier

  • Dry sand savanna


Third tier

  • Dry-mesic sand savanna
  • Wet-mesic fine-textured-soil savannas may be at greatest risk because once the hydrology is lost in this community it is extremely difficult to restore.
FORESTED COMMUNITIES
* Four community types: upland, floodplain, flatwoods and woodlands

First (highest) tier

  • Woodland (all subtypes)


Second tier

  • Northern flatwood


Third tier

  • Sand flatwood
  • Forested communities across the board are likely to be affected by climate change. Wetter habitats may face reduced water availability due to increased temperatures and higher evaporation rates in the summer months, while dry habitats may get drier, leading to more stress on trees, lowering their resistance to disease, etc.


  • Floodplains may be at a higher risk due to more extreme flooding predicted for the region. The frequency and duration of flooding, factors that shape these communities will change and lead to some native species being stressed.


  • Flatwoods may also be at higher risk from more extreme floods, but also from drought stress. Soils of flatwoods have an impermeable or slowly permeable layer that causes a shallow water table are more likely to dry up completely in the summer months.

Data Sources:

  1. The Chicago Wilderness Biodiversity Recovery Plan.
  2. The State of Our Chicago Wilderness: A Report Card on the Health of the Region’s Ecosystem’s.
  3. The Chicago Wilderness Atlas of Biodiversity.
  4. Illinois Comprehensive Wildlife Conservation Plan and Strategy. 2005. Illinois Department of Natural Resources.
  5. North American Wildlife Society Technical Review 04-02. 2004. Global Climate Change and Wildlife in North America. The Wildlife Society of America.
  6. Union of Concerned Scientists. 2009. Confronting Climate Change in the U.S. Midwest, Illinois.
  7. Hall, K. and Root, T. 2010. Climate Change and Biodiversity in the Great Lakes Region: From “Fingerprints” of Change to Helping Safeguard Species. Pages XX-XX in Climate #: Change in the Great Lakes
    Region, T. Dietz and D. Bidwell, editors. Michigan State University Press, East Lansing, MI.
  8. Potential impacts summarized in support of an experts’ workshop on biodiversity adaptation held in Chicago on 14 July 2009, based on a literature review by Dr. Kimberly #: Hall, Great Lakes Climate
    Scientist, The Nature Conservancy.



TABLE 3: Detailed table of Chicago Wilderness Aquatic Community Type and Climate Change Impacts

Community Divisions Existing Conservation Issues Expected Climate Change Impacts
ALL AQUATIC COMMUNITIES

Reduced water quality due to:

  • point and non-point sources of pollution
  • reductions in dissolved oxygen
  • erosion
  • invasive species
  • nutrient loading
  • sedimentation
  • loss of native submerged and emergent vegetation
  • management focused only on narrow range of species (e.g., game fish)


Reduced water quantity due to:

  • altered hydrology resulting from development (e.g., dams, channelization, impoundment, and drainage)
  • Warmer water temperatures may favor warm-water fish species over cold-water fish species due to differences in competitive ability/thermal tolerance among natives.


  • Warmer water temperatures may allow non-native species to have a better chance of establishing themselves, increasing the stress on native plant and animal populations.


  • Projected increases in heavy precipitation events are likely to lead to more flooding and non-point source pollution due to greater runoff from urban/agricultural areas. The number and severity of summertime pollution episodes, such as Combined Sewer Overflow (CSO’s), are likely to increase.


  • Increased storm intensity may lead to extreme flow conditions that promote stream channel/lakeshore destabilization, leading to sedimentation and a loss of sensitive aquatic habitats (scouring).


  • Increased water temperature will further reduce availability of dissolved oxygen for organisms because warmer water holds less oxygen.


  • Lack of snow or ice, or earlier snow melt or ice breakup, and earlier peaks in spring runoff may change the timing and volume of stream flows and possibly influence lake levels.


  • Increased demand for biofuels will intensify potential for greater run-off and erosion as land is converted from wet or buffer areas, and the usage of fertilizers and pesticides increases.
Community Divisions Additional Existing Conservation Issues Additional Expected Climate Change Impacts
STREAMS/RIVERS
* Four size categories: headwater stream, low-order streams, mid-order streams, large rivers
  • Subcategories are defined by flow, gradient and substrate

Reduced water quality due to:

  • thermal pollution


Altered water quality due to:

  • storage for flood control
  • domestic/commercial water supply
  • Increased temperatures may promote range shifts in sensitive species, which in some cases are impeded by dams and other barriers.
  • More variable flow regimes may reduce spawning success of certain fish by disturbing sediments in their nests.
  • Altered patterns of precipitation and evapotranspiration may change dam operation, including timing and quantity of water releases into rivers/streams.
LAKES/POUND
* Three types of natural lakes: bottomland lakes, vernal ponds, and glacial lakes
  • Glacial lakes are divided further into two types: kettle and flow-through

Human use, especially recreational, of lakes disturbing ecosystems (e.g., fishing effects on food web, effects of stocking fish, unintentional introduction of invasive plants and animals, disturbance of breeding and migratory birds by boats)

  • In general, increased temperatures could promote a longer stratified period in lakes (if deep enough), and more areas with low dissolved oxygen.


  • A drier environment may reduce the extent and duration of vernal ponds, which are essential to the survival and reproduction of many amphibian species.


  • Warmer water temperatures will exacerbate the current problem of nutrient pollution and algae growth in freshwater lakes.
LAKE MICHIGAN
* Lakeshore
  • Near shore waters
  • Benthic zone
  • Loss of coastal habitat connected to lake along lakeshore.


  • Habitat degradation along lakeshore


  • Reduced water quality due to:
    • invasive diseases (e.g., viral hemorrhagic septicemia in fish)
    • toxins (e.g., PCB’s and mercury in fish)


  • Excessive fish harvest


  • Changes in the food web (e.g., decreased Diporeia populations)
  • Great Lakes water usage is regulated by compact-competition for water driven by population growth and ground water draw down. The most likely future scenario is for water levels in Lake Michigan to decline as a result of increased evaporation due to increasing temperatures and reduced winter ice cover.


  • Reduced lake levels may shift location of nearshore habitats and expose toxic sediments. Toxins like PCB’s may become more volatile once they are exposed.


  • Reduced lake levels may expose more nearshore areas to invasions of Phragmites, which can be especially threatening to the sand dunes and their unique species assemblage.


  • Reduced lake level may allow new habitats to emerge, but often native plants will not be able to get established fast enough due to current problems with invasives along the shore.


  • Increasing temperatures may favor invasive species like toxic Cyanobacteria algae, which can grow/bloom at faster rates in warmer water.


  • Food webs may be disturbed as species at different levels of the food web shift their timing (e.g., phytoplankton blooming, then zooplankton emergence from dormant forms….).


  • Warmer water temperatures will exacerbate the current problem of nutrient pollution and algae growth in freshwater lakes.


  • Lower water levels coupled with warmer water temperatures may accelerate the accumulation of mercury in the aquatic food chain, as it is more likely to convert into a more bio-available form.


  • Changes in wind patterns, which can alter the circulation and temperature gradients of water in coastal areas (bays), are occurring and climate change may be the cause.

Data Sources:

  1. The Chicago Wilderness Biodiversity Recovery Plan.
  2. The State of Our Chicago Wilderness: A Report Card on the Health of the Region’s Ecosystem’s.
  3. The Chicago Wilderness Atlas of Biodiversity.
  4. Lake Michigan Lakewide Management Plan. 2008. U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), Great Lakes National Program Office (GLNP).
  5. Illinois Comprehensive Wildlife Conservation Plan and Strategy. 2005. Illinois Department of Natural Resources.
  6. North American Wildlife Society Technical Review 04-02. 2004. Global Climate Change and Wildlife in North America. The Wildlife Society of America.
  7. Union of Concerned Scientists. 2009. Confronting Climate Change in the U.S. Midwest, Illinois.
  8. Hall, K. and Root, T. 2010. Climate Change and Biodiversity in the Great Lakes Region: From “Fingerprints” of Change to Helping Safeguard Species. Pages XX-XX in Climate Change in the Great Lakes
    Region, T. Dietz and D. Bidwell, editors. Michigan State University Press, East Lansing, MI.
  9. Potential impacts summarized in support of an experts’ workshop on biodiversity adaptation held in Chicago on 14 July 2009, based on a literature review by Dr. Kimberly Hall, Great Lakes Climate Scientist,
    The Nature Conservancy.