Cougars and Climate…
In the midst of human caused climate change and the sixth great extinction, we cannot ignore the problems our natural world is experiencing. From wildfires and droughts to hurricanes and sea level rise, climate change is already affecting people everywhere and changing the ecosystems that support all life on our planet. Whether or not you have experienced climate change first hand, we are all going to feel its effects eventually, and the decisions we make today will be lived by our youth in the years to come.
Some species are well suited to help us fight climate change, and the mountain lion is one such species. Mountain lions are one of the best examples of an ecological engineer, meaning they help keep entire ecosystems functioning properly. Lions reduce the time deer and elk spend browsing along streams, which helps protect our waterways from both droughts and flooding. Furthermore, mountain lion carrion provides food sources for countless wildlife species, helping maintain biodiversity and keeping ecosystems intact and resilient to change.
While mountain lions are a powerful ecosystem engineer, they too are experiencing many challenges because of climate change. As drought reduces the availability of prey and wildfire destroys vast stretches of mountain lion habitat, lions must wander greater distances to find food, sometimes bringing them into closer proximity with people. Now more than ever, it is essential to protect remaining mountain lion habitat, develop corridors that allow them to move unimpeded by human barriers, and foster peaceful coexistence with the species.
By learning about the challenges mountain lions face in our changing world, we can better protect these iconic cats so they can continue to perform their essential role in the ecosystem. Navigate the story map and other educational resources below to learn more about cougars and climate. Then consider taking action or joining us to support the conservation of mountain lions in the era of climate change.
Mountain Lions in an Era of Rapid Climate and Land-use Change – Learn how mountain lions are responding to drought and its related impact on the availability of deer and other prey species. Dr. David Stoner, an Assistant Professor from Utah State University, explains some of the challenges lions are facing and their implications for human-lion conflict.
Introducing Mountain Lion Foundation’s Climate Change Program– Introduction to MLF’s climate change program and why we are working on this important topic.
Predator Species Help to Buffer Climate Change Impacts on Biodiversity – Science Daily, Jan 12, 2022
Why Cougars Are Coming to Town – National Geographic, May 3, 2021
Prolonged Drought Lingers into Summer Prompting Animals into Las Vegas Neighborhoods – FOX5 Las Vegas, July 26, 2021
California Wildfires Have Impacted Hundreds of Big Cats This Year – Lonely Planet, July 8, 2021
Ross, S. R. J., Garcia Molinos, J., Okuda, A., Johnstone, J., Atsumi, K., Futamura, R., & Donohue, I. (2022). Predators mitigate the destabilising effects of heatwaves on multitrophic stream communities. Global Change Biology.
Stoner, D. C., Sexton, J. O., Choate, D. M., Nagol, J., Bernales, H. H., Sims, S. A., & Edwards Jr, T. C. (2018). Climatically driven changes in primary production propagate through trophic levels. Global Change Biology, 24(10), 4453-4463.
Stoner, D. C., Ditmer, M. A., Mitchell, D. L., Young, J. K., & Wolfe, M. L. (2021). Conflict, coexistence, or both? Cougar habitat selection, prey composition, and mortality in a multiple-use landscape. California Fish and Wildlife, 107(3):147-172; 2021
Zanin, M., Palomares, F., & Albernaz, A. L. M. (2021). Effects of climate change on the distribution of felids: mapping biogeographic patterns and establishing conservation priorities. Biodiversity and Conservation, 30(5), 1375-1394.