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Increased Temperatures

Bleached Staghorn coral in Dry Tortugas National Park (NPS photo).
Bleached Staghorn coral in Dry Tortugas National Park (NPS photo).

Warming associated with climate change affects not only air temperatures, but also water and soil temperatures. These changes can directly stress fish, wildlife, and plants, and have dire consequences for species migration, reproduction, and other critical life processes. For example, warmer sand temperature in key sea turtle nesting areas has decreased the number of hatchlings, further threatening the survival of these species.

Warming oceans has led to massive coral bleaching events worldwide and NPS' ocean and coastal parks have not been immune to these events. Reefs in American Samoa, Hawaii and the Caribbean have experienced bleaching. In the Great Lakes, warmer lake waters are leading to extended periods of lake stratification, which in turn can reduce the water's suitability for native coldwater fish species and the species they rely on for food.

Warming is also a concern for people, including visitors to ocean and coastal parks. Rising air temperatures, along with human activities, have increased the spread of vector-borne diseases that were once limited to smaller ranges, such as West Nile Virus.


Last Updated: July 26, 2011