A quietness has taken hold and settled in, for now. But as the possibility of spring begins to dawn, those who love the tundra of Rocky Mountain National Park know that the time approaches when they once again will be able to inhale the beauty of the tundra meadow.
Once Trail Ridge Road opens for the season, nature lovers from the world around will be able to behold the most accessible tundra in the lower 48.
What is tundra? It is a place of frozen temperatures and short growing seasons. It is a place where trees simply cannot grow; and instead, glorious wild grasses and flowers bursting with color paint the mountainside. It is a place where ptarmigans live out their lives, as the wind sings a constant lullaby to the earth.
But because of climate change, scientists predict that for every degree of warming, the tree line will encroach upon the tundra by 250 feet. So if the earth’s temperature rises by 5.4 degrees, then half of the tundra will be eliminated. And a rise of 9 degrees will eliminate it all together.
The warmer temperatures dry out the tundra’s fragile soil, a soil that supports “shallow-rooted flowers” (nrdc.org). These would instead be replaced by sagebrush, a dull looking species that can withstand drier soil and a drier climate.
The cacophony of color that oozes from a Colorado mountainside cannot be missed. These flowers anchor the earth and give food to the creatures that make tundra their home. And for the human? It truly is something to behold. Our very own Monet or Rembrandt, an ode to beauty that we must fight to save.
Glorious color, you are a gift!
“Rocky Mountain NP: Crown Jewels at Risk: Global Warming threatens Western national parks.” 20 Feb. 2011. <https://www.nrdc.org/land/parks/globalwarming/rockymountain.asp>.