SCIENCE IN OUR NATIONAL PARKS: 5 PLACES WHERE, AND WHY, SCIENTISTS WORK

Part 5: North Cascades National Park

North Cascades National Park is located near Seattle, Washington, alongside the state’s border with Canada. The North Cascades seems to offer a wide range of accessibility to people of all interests and capabilities. For example, within the North Cascades one could go on a canoe trip while someone else is attempting to summit the nearly 10,000 ft. Mt. Shucksan, while another person may be studying the ecology of its gently sloped bottomland forest. Like many other parks that are situated in higher latitudes and accustomed to colder climates, the North Cascades offer the opportunity for researchers to see the direct and indirect effects of climate change. Major topics for scientific investigation include ecosystem and ecotone studies, such as habitat and species analysis in response to altered biomes. According to NPS research, invasive plants are a major problem in the park. NPS researchers are also responsible for a glacier monitoring program that studies variations and trends in the ice and its relation to climate change.

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The mission of the park’s researchers is especially important since it is within driving distance of Seattle and Toronto, meaning there is extreme pressure to protect and preserve the park for future generations. Many of the problems that the North Cascades face are commonplace across the country. Like the Great Smoky Mountains, the North Cascades are frequently visited. The park seems to be suffering from such an overabundance of appreciation, because tourism is degrading the parks resources and habitats. The park’s trees are suffering heavily from an invasive species. In all corners of the park, tree species such as the North Cascades’ whitebark pine suffer from massive die offs and invasive beetles. The beetles are parasites that bore into the flesh of the tree, enabling other opportunistic diseases to proliferate and damage its structure. The Pine Beetle has become and endemic problem across the United States. Scientists in the North Cascades are studying whether warmer temperatures ushered in by climate change enable the beetle to have longer, more damaging seasons on the pines growth. To learn more about North Cascades National Park, click here.

 

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