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iWild: For more see iWild.org

Love Your Uncharismatic Microfauna

OK, so a fly may not seem all that loveable compared to ultra-furry pandas or cute baby elephants. But this stonefly is doubtless a critical part of its high-altitude glacial stream ecosystem. Little is known of its life cycle or role, but it may be almost too late to find out. Listed as critically imperiled on the NatureServe database (where it is also known as “Meltwater Lednian Stonefly”), the species is found only in minuscule populations within Glacier National Park in Montana, at Frying Pan Creek in Mt. Rainier National Park in Washington, and in one site along the Waterton River in Alberta, Canada. Entirely dependent on well-oxygenated glacial runoff, the species may be wiped out by rising temperatures and the melting of glaciers: Glacier National Park is expected to be glacier-free by 2030. One estimate reported recently by National Geographic has moved that date up, to 2020. The Mist Forestfly may have only a decade left. Only organized global action on climate change can save glacier-dependent species like this one, so WildEarth Guardians is trying to force the government’s hand with its BioBlitz, 36 days of filing petitions and lawsuits to demand ESA listings for our most endangered species, regardless of whether they’re furry or huggable. “The uncharismatic microfauna deserve protection as much, and sometimes more, than the megafauna,” US Fish & Wildlife Service spokesperson Ann Carlson told the Missoulian. “They play a role in an ecosystem. Pull one away and sometimes the whole thing can collapse. So we don’t distinguish based on size, or how popular it is.” So far, the Obama Administration has been agonizingly slow to act on ESA listings. If they do nothing, it may be all over for this unique glacial insect.
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