Forum for Science, Industry and Business

Sponsored by:     3M 
Search our Site:

 

Ocean climate predicts elk population in Canadian Rockies

11.05.2005


Mark Hebblewhite can look at specific climate statistics from the north Pacific Ocean and tell you how the elk are doing in Banff National Park. The University of Alberta doctoral student is the first researcher to show a correlation between the North Pacific Oscillation (NPO) and a mammal population.



Based on many climate-related ocean measurements, researchers are able to determine positive, average and negative NPO values. A positive NPO translates into a milder climate in most of western North America, but it means more severe weather in the mountain regions, where climate is more complex.

Hebblewhite analyzed the elk population in Banff National Park from 1985 to 2000 and cross-referenced his results with NPO values during that period. He found that positive NPO values translate into elk population declines in the park.


Severe weather in the mountains means colder and snowier conditions than usual. More snow is bad news for elk, which have heavy bodies and long, narrow legs and small hooves. The deeper the snow, the further they sink. Conversely, wolves have relatively light, sleek bodies and big, wide paws that act like snowshoes. In the Canadian Rockies, wolves rely on elk meat for 40 to 70 per cent of their diet.

"The elk are already at a deficit in the winter. There is less grass to eat, and their bodies have to work harder and use more energy to stay warm," said Hebblewhite, who studies in the U of A Department of Biological Sciences.

Cold, wet weather alone is enough to decrease an elk population, but when wolves are added to the environment, elk become especially vulnerable. Hebblewhite found that the combination of positive NPO values and wolf predation were related to 50 per cent declines in the elk population.

Hebblewhite noted that positive NPO values and severe weather in the Canadian Rockies are occurring more frequently, and the trend is likely related to global warming. However, he added that the elk are not a threatened because wolves, their main predator, cannot kill and eat fast enough to wipe out the whole population. Also, wolves tend to kill one another as their available prey dwindles, so a stasis is maintained naturally.

Nevertheless, Hebblewhite is excited about his findings because they provide a deeper understanding of the complex relationship between climate and ecosystem, and they open the door for more research in the area. The Atlantic Ocean climate has already been linked to ecosystem changes in Europe, Greenland and eastern North America, but Hebblewhite is a pioneer in working with NPO values.

"It’s important to figure out what climate change means to us in terms we can understand," he said. "The more we know, the more we can do to produce the outcomes we desire and prevent the ones we don’t."

In 2002, Hebblewhite won the Canon National Parks Scholarship for the Americas, an award worth $78,000 US over three years. More recently, he won the U of A Andrew Stewart Memorial Prize for his publication record as a grad student. He has authored seven published papers in the past four years. His research on the relationship between NPO values and the elk population in Banff National Park was published this spring in the Journal of Animal Ecology.

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

More articles from Ecology, The Environment and Conservation:

nachricht Bioinvasion on the rise
15.02.2017 | Universität Konstanz

nachricht Litter Levels in the Depths of the Arctic are On the Rise
10.02.2017 | Alfred-Wegener-Institut, Helmholtz-Zentrum für Polar- und Meeresforschung

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: Breakthrough with a chain of gold atoms

In the field of nanoscience, an international team of physicists with participants from Konstanz has achieved a breakthrough in understanding heat transport

In the field of nanoscience, an international team of physicists with participants from Konstanz has achieved a breakthrough in understanding heat transport

Im Focus: DNA repair: a new letter in the cell alphabet

Results reveal how discoveries may be hidden in scientific “blind spots”

Cells need to repair damaged DNA in our genes to prevent the development of cancer and other diseases. Our cells therefore activate and send “repair-proteins”...

Im Focus: Dresdner scientists print tomorrow’s world

The Fraunhofer IWS Dresden and Technische Universität Dresden inaugurated their jointly operated Center for Additive Manufacturing Dresden (AMCD) with a festive ceremony on February 7, 2017. Scientists from various disciplines perform research on materials, additive manufacturing processes and innovative technologies, which build up components in a layer by layer process. This technology opens up new horizons for component design and combinations of functions. For example during fabrication, electrical conductors and sensors are already able to be additively manufactured into components. They provide information about stress conditions of a product during operation.

The 3D-printing technology, or additive manufacturing as it is often called, has long made the step out of scientific research laboratories into industrial...

Im Focus: Mimicking nature's cellular architectures via 3-D printing

Research offers new level of control over the structure of 3-D printed materials

Nature does amazing things with limited design materials. Grass, for example, can support its own weight, resist strong wind loads, and recover after being...

Im Focus: Three Magnetic States for Each Hole

Nanometer-scale magnetic perforated grids could create new possibilities for computing. Together with international colleagues, scientists from the Helmholtz Zentrum Dresden-Rossendorf (HZDR) have shown how a cobalt grid can be reliably programmed at room temperature. In addition they discovered that for every hole ("antidot") three magnetic states can be configured. The results have been published in the journal "Scientific Reports".

Physicist Dr. Rantej Bali from the HZDR, together with scientists from Singapore and Australia, designed a special grid structure in a thin layer of cobalt in...

All Focus news of the innovation-report >>>

Anzeige

Anzeige

Event News

Booth and panel discussion – The Lindau Nobel Laureate Meetings at the AAAS 2017 Annual Meeting

13.02.2017 | Event News

Complex Loading versus Hidden Reserves

10.02.2017 | Event News

International Conference on Crystal Growth in Freiburg

09.02.2017 | Event News

 
Latest News

Stingless bees have their nests protected by soldiers

24.02.2017 | Life Sciences

New risk factors for anxiety disorders

24.02.2017 | Life Sciences

MWC 2017: 5G Capital Berlin

24.02.2017 | Trade Fair News

VideoLinks
B2B-VideoLinks
More VideoLinks >>>