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International Panel to Examine National Parks and Climate Change

August 8, 2012

Researchers from four continents will examine how global warming might influence planning and management in some of the world’s most iconic national parks during a panel discussion Thursday, Aug. 9, at the University of Wyoming.

The discussion, “National Parks and Climate Change,” is from 3-5 p.m. in the Wyoming Union Family Room. Patricia Taylor, UW Department of Criminal Justice professor, says the speakers represent some of the world’s popular natural attractions: the marine-based  Galapagos Marine Reserve near Ecuador and the Great Barrier Reef of Australia; and two areas known for magnificent and diverse wildlife populations, South Africa’s Kruger National Park and the greater Yellowstone ecosystem.

“The focus is not so much on how the environment in the protected areas might be impacted by climate change, but rather how park management is planning and preparing for the consequences of these changes,” says Taylor, who organized the panel discussion with Burke Grandjean, statistics professor and executive director of the Wyoming Survey and Analysis Center. “For example, how will the environmental changes affect tourism and the huge economic boost it brings to these areas? We are just at the beginning stages of taking a social science approach to understanding what the consequences might be.”

It appears that there is much variability in how much attention park managers and planners now devote to the social science aspects of climate change, Grandjean says.

“It is evident that, in the Yellowstone area, planners are considering possible effects on the region’s flora and fauna, but less attention is given to impacts on tourism,” he says. “If the environment is stressed by changing climate conditions, could it be stressed even further by tourists? If there are no changes in how park visitors are managed, the lack of planning could be detrimental. Much of this is unknown and will play out a great deal more over the next 20 years.”

Speakers are Professor Diego Quiroga, vice president of Quito, Ecuador’s University of San Francisco (Galapagos Marine Reserve); Duan Biggs, University of Queensland, Australia, and Marna Herbst, SANParks, South Africa (Kruger National Park); Professors William Carter and Sheila Peake, Australia’s University of the Sunshine Coast (Great Barrier Reef and Fraser Island); and Taylor and Grandjean (Greater Yellowstone Ecosystem).

Photo:
A giant tortoise in the Galapagos Marine Reserve, one of the world’s protected areas that will be discussed Thursday during a panel discussion at the University of Wyoming.


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