Climate Change is Here and Now

The science is undeniable. Climate change is real, and its impacts are all around us. While in the Ozarks may not see the rapid extremes taking place at the Poles, changes in our region are in play nevertheless.

Accordingly, the Ozark Society, as a guardian of the Buffalo River ecosystem, has taken a position on climate change as it affects the national river and park and the  greater Ozarks region in the Ozark Society’s respective states.

Our Statement

 We affirm the following:

The Ozark Society urges all who float, fish, hike, ride, hunt, recreate and farm in the Buffalo River watershed to be aware of the scientific consensus about climate change. Citizens also should be mindful of potential climate change impacts on our beloved river and the greater Ozarks Plateau. Among the potential impacts of concern are changing weather patterns, including floods and droughts, that could affect regional hydrologic balance to: 

  • Change forest ecosystems
  • Increase influence of non-native, invasive species
  • Alter pollinator populations for area crops, pastures, gardens and wildflowers
  • Increase erosion and wash out riverside campsites
  • Increase nuisance algae blooms
  • Create low-dissolved oxygen levels in the river, affecting fish populations and other aquatic creatures 
  • Alter Public access to and enjoyment of the river

The Ozark Society respectfully requests greater investment in public stewardship of our national river, including more investment in continuous scientific monitoring of changing conditions and more public commitment to mitigating potential negative impacts of climate change across the Ozarks.

Supporting Facts, Trends and Links

Here are some climate change facts, trends and predictions we’ve uncovered and links to source material. We welcome other contributions from members.

  1. Arkansas Wildlife Action Plan

As part of the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service’s State Wildlife Grant program, Congress charged each state and territory with developing a state plan that provides an essential foundation for the future of wildlife conservation and an opportunity for state, federal agencies and other conservation partners to fit together individual and coordinate roles in conservation efforts across the state.

The link below leads to a section of the 2015 plan from which several facts have been extracted, also shown below. In 2017, the organization identified climate change as an emerging issue that qualified for funding to support research pertaining to impacts on species of concern. https://www.wildlifearkansas.com/materials/2015/ClimateChange.pdf

Warmer air, water and soil temperatures may affect wildlife, especially species of concern, in various ways, including:

    • Bats may experience (1) prematurely warming roosts leading to abandonment, (2) less prey and water coverage during drought years, (3) fewer plants to pollinate
    • For birds, more drought may decrease availability of insect prey and potentially affect reproduction success
    • Reptiles that require aquatic, wetland or mesic habitats may be negatively affected by longer droughts
    • Cool, moist micro-habitats preferred by many amphibians, such as the Ozark Hellbender, would likely be degraded and could affect breeding because of higher temperatures, turbidity and sedimentation
    • Warming stream temperatures that lower dissolved oxygen levels, as well as more runoff during floods, may adversely affect fish populations
    • Though mammals can disperse more easily than some wildlife, drought, fire and floods can greatly reduce food resources for some species
    • Insects with specialized habitat requirements, such as aquatic systems and host plants, may disperse and migrate northward; fewer insects mean less food for other species and less pollination
  1. Climate Effect on Smallmouth Bass in the Buffalo River

Floods in May (up to 90% mortality) and higher temperatures in June are the main limiting factor of spawning success and fry survival in the Buffalo River.  After the first year, drought and fishing pressure have the most influence on adult bass survival.

–Middaugh, Magoulick, Forecasting the Effects of Angler Harvest and Climate Change on Smallmouth Bass Abundance in the Buffalo River, Arkansas, 1st annual Buffalo River Symposium, 2019)

  1. Regional Impacts & Sources

Dr. Stephen Boss, Department of Geosciences, University of Arkansas, reports the Berkeley Earth Project studies are solid science. https://berkeleyearth.org/

Berkeley Earth – Berkeley Earth

Globally, January 2021 was the 6th warmest January since record-keeping began in 1850. Due to La Niña conditions, 2022 is projected to be around the 4th or 5th warmest year overall, with only a 10% chance of being record warm.

4. Global Changes

5. Latest IPCC Climate Change Update

The UN’s International Panel on Climate Change issues latest dire predictions unless countries step up the pace of emissions reductions and other mitigations. The IPCC Climate Change 2022 Impacts Report: Why it matters | National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration

Potential Action Steps for Ozark Society Members & Chapters

  • Educate yourself from reputable sources about climate change impacts
  • Identify and support organizations working to mitigate and adapt to climate change in your area
  • Encourage your local, state and federal representatives to support and fund research studies and actions to mitigate and adapt to changes
  • Get involved in citizen science projects that help identify trends and build a base of scientific knowledge about species impacts
  • Involve your children, grandchildren and local schools in climate change projects

Here are things you can do to help

The OS Climate Change Committee is Jennifer Ailor, Chair, Steve Boss, Brian Thompson, Alice Andrews, Laura Timby, Dina Nash, and David Peterson