The western glacial stonefly (Zapada glacier) is endemic to the glacial runoff streams of Glacier National Park. With global warming poised to cause the complete loss of glaciers from Glacier National Park around 2030, it seems the western glacial stonefly could be among the first North American species to disappear entirely because of global warming (Giersch et al 2015). The species, now recognized as “critically imperiled” by Nature Serve and “at high risk of range wide extinction” by the Montana Natural Heritage Program, seems to be slowly progressing toward protection under the U.S. Endangered Species Act. The issue of US endangered species threatened by climate change could come to a head over this little bug.
So, is the western glacial stonefly the most climate-imperiled species in North America? As far as I know it is the most clear case of a species at risk of imminent extinction due to global warming. Please email me if you know of a more imminent case of climate-mediated extinction! My guess though is that there are other narrow endemic species that have already silently suffered climate-mediated extinction without being noticed. Many narrow endemic plants and insects, including alpine species, have poorly resolved taxonomy. As with habitat destruction and climate change in the tropics, climate change may be driving North American species to extinction before they have even been described by science.