Rare insect imperiled by retreating ice in Glacier National Park
By Louis Sahagun, The LA Times
Shrinking glaciers and rising stream temperatures in Montana’s Glacier National Park are prompting concerns about the impacts on surrounding ecological systems after perennial streams of melted ice disappear.
Of particular concern is the fate of a rare aquatic insect, the western glacier stonefly, which is only found in the park and was first identified in streams there in 1963. Only 25 specimens exist in museum collections around the world.
The ice masses in Glacier National Park are expected to disappear by 2030, leaving the insect scientists know as Zapada glacier without the creature comforts it needs to avoid extinction: very cold alpine streams flowing out of patches of ice.
Recent surveys and genetic analysis show that the 1/2-inch-long insect is now only found in one of six streams it inhabited prior to 2011, according to a new study published online last week in the scientific journal Freshwater Science.