Forum for Science, Industry and Business

Sponsored by:     3M 
Search our Site:

 

Computer models expose humans as main cause of caribou decline

02.09.2004


If not for humans, the number of woodland caribou in northern Alberta would be seven times greater than it is now, a new study from the University of Alberta shows. Since 1987, woodland caribou in Alberta have been classified as threatened under the Alberta Wildlife Act.



"Caribou feed mostly on lichens that are typical for old-growth forest stands," said Piotr Weclaw a PhD student at the U of A. "They need a pristine ecological environment with large areas of old-growth forests in order to survive, and most things that disrupt the natural environment will be detrimental to them." "In this manner, studying caribou is especially important because caribou are what we call an ’indicator’ species, meaning how well they do is generally a good indicator to gauge the overall health of the forests where they live," he added.

Working in the U of A Department of Renewable Resources, Weclaw and his PhD supervisor, Dr. Robert Hudson, developed computer models that simulate the ecosystem of a 20,000 square km area in northern Alberta. They introduced different variables into the models to see what effect, if any, the changes had on the development of the simulated ecosystem. Some variables included altering the number of wolves (a caribou predator), moose (the main prey of wolves), and edible vegetation in the area. As well, a "natural" model--the ecosystem as it would be without any humans and thus no industrial development--was created, as was a "business as usual" model, with no changes from current conditions.


The models show that human activities stood out overwhelmingly as the variable most responsible for the woodland caribou’s decline in northern Alberta. The models also showed that woodland caribou could coexist with uncontrolled wolf populations in northern Alberta, but if human developments continue at the current rate, the number of woodland caribou in the area will drop sharply in about 15 years, and continue dropping until they are eliminated from the area in 37 years.

"Based on the simulation experiments, we suggest the most detrimental factor on caribou population dynamics is the functional loss of habitat due to avoidance of good quality habitat in proximity of industrial infrastructures," said Weclaw, lead author of the study, which will be published this month in Ecological Modelling.

A previous study conducted through the Boreal Caribou Committee, a group of U of A researchers dedicated to studying caribou, showed caribou will generally stay about 200 metres clear of any human industrial developments, including roads and seismic lines.

Weclaw added that some measures are being taken to reduce the impact humans are having on Alberta’s northern boreal land. For one, he said, seismic lines, which oil and gas exploration companies make to produce a model of subsurface geological structures, are being made narrower than they used to be and are no longer cut in straight lines. The lines are also reseeded shortly after being cut. Research is being conducted to see if these measures lessen the impact on the caribou.

However, whether these measures prove effective or not, Weclaw believes that even more needs to be done to ensure the continued survival of the caribou in northern Alberta. "We need to get all interested parties together to work on solutions to protect the caribou. Our research suggests that if things continue as they are now, soon we won’t have anymore caribou to protect," he said.

Ryan Smith | EurekAlert!
Further information:
http://www.ualberta.ca

More articles from Ecology, The Environment and Conservation:

nachricht Dune ecosystem modelling
23.06.2017 | Albert-Ludwigs-Universität Freiburg im Breisgau

nachricht Understanding animal social networks can aid wildlife conservation
23.06.2017 | Leibniz-Institut für Gewässerökologie und Binnenfischerei (IGB)

All articles from Ecology, The Environment and Conservation >>>

The most recent press releases about innovation >>>

Die letzten 5 Focus-News des innovations-reports im Überblick:

Im Focus: Can we see monkeys from space? Emerging technologies to map biodiversity

An international team of scientists has proposed a new multi-disciplinary approach in which an array of new technologies will allow us to map biodiversity and the risks that wildlife is facing at the scale of whole landscapes. The findings are published in Nature Ecology and Evolution. This international research is led by the Kunming Institute of Zoology from China, University of East Anglia, University of Leicester and the Leibniz Institute for Zoo and Wildlife Research.

Using a combination of satellite and ground data, the team proposes that it is now possible to map biodiversity with an accuracy that has not been previously...

Im Focus: Climate satellite: Tracking methane with robust laser technology

Heatwaves in the Arctic, longer periods of vegetation in Europe, severe floods in West Africa – starting in 2021, scientists want to explore the emissions of the greenhouse gas methane with the German-French satellite MERLIN. This is made possible by a new robust laser system of the Fraunhofer Institute for Laser Technology ILT in Aachen, which achieves unprecedented measurement accuracy.

Methane is primarily the result of the decomposition of organic matter. The gas has a 25 times greater warming potential than carbon dioxide, but is not as...

Im Focus: How protons move through a fuel cell

Hydrogen is regarded as the energy source of the future: It is produced with solar power and can be used to generate heat and electricity in fuel cells. Empa researchers have now succeeded in decoding the movement of hydrogen ions in crystals – a key step towards more efficient energy conversion in the hydrogen industry of tomorrow.

As charge carriers, electrons and ions play the leading role in electrochemical energy storage devices and converters such as batteries and fuel cells. Proton...

Im Focus: A unique data centre for cosmological simulations

Scientists from the Excellence Cluster Universe at the Ludwig-Maximilians-Universität Munich have establised "Cosmowebportal", a unique data centre for cosmological simulations located at the Leibniz Supercomputing Centre (LRZ) of the Bavarian Academy of Sciences. The complete results of a series of large hydrodynamical cosmological simulations are available, with data volumes typically exceeding several hundred terabytes. Scientists worldwide can interactively explore these complex simulations via a web interface and directly access the results.

With current telescopes, scientists can observe our Universe’s galaxies and galaxy clusters and their distribution along an invisible cosmic web. From the...

Im Focus: Scientists develop molecular thermometer for contactless measurement using infrared light

Temperature measurements possible even on the smallest scale / Molecular ruby for use in material sciences, biology, and medicine

Chemists at Johannes Gutenberg University Mainz (JGU) in cooperation with researchers of the German Federal Institute for Materials Research and Testing (BAM)...

All Focus news of the innovation-report >>>

Anzeige

Anzeige

Event News

Plants are networkers

19.06.2017 | Event News

Digital Survival Training for Executives

13.06.2017 | Event News

Global Learning Council Summit 2017

13.06.2017 | Event News

 
Latest News

Quantum thermometer or optical refrigerator?

23.06.2017 | Physics and Astronomy

A 100-year-old physics problem has been solved at EPFL

23.06.2017 | Physics and Astronomy

Equipping form with function

23.06.2017 | Information Technology

VideoLinks
B2B-VideoLinks
More VideoLinks >>>