Forum for Science, Industry and Business

Sponsored by:     3M 
Search our Site:


Computers to save unique type of American red squirrel


UK expertise is being exported to North America to help prevent a unique type of red squirrel dying out in as little as 30 years time.

Researchers from the University of Newcastle upon Tyne in England, working with The University of Arizona in the US, have developed a special computer model which in time will pinpoint the biggest threats to the rare Mount Graham Red Squirrel.

Details of the model are published in the academic journal Biological Conservation.

The Mount Graham Red Squirrel, isolated for the last 10,000 years in a small area of coniferous forest on a mountain in the Arizona desert, has a unique shape, genetic make-up and behavioural characteristics. It is a recognised subspecies and protected under the United States’ Endangered Species Act. The mountain itself is known globally for the Mt. Graham International Observatory.

The British academics are applying expertise developed while working with the threatened UK red squirrel - a completely different species to the Mount Graham variety despite the similar names - in one of its last strongholds in Europe, Kielder Forest on the Scottish border. With around 10,000 red squirrels, Kielder hosts England’s largest remaining population.

In Kielder, Newcastle University’s Dr Peter Lurz and colleagues used the model to create a conservation strategy for the forest, assisting with planting and felling plans to help maintain a viable red squirrel population. Here, the reds’ biggest threat is the introduced grey squirrel, which out-competes them for food and transfers a deadly virus.

In the US, the new computer model, which mimics population dynamics in response to different threats, will help evaluate and refocus existing efforts to save Mount Graham Red Squirrel. Although conservation measures are already in place, concerns about the animal’s viability have increased as numbers have more than halved since 1999, dropping from 562 to a recent low of 214.

As with the British red squirrel, one of the Mount Graham red squirrel’s threats is an introduced species of squirrel. The Abert’s tree squirrel likes to eat similar types of food to the reds and also plunders the food middens they build to see them through the winter.

Other threats include damage to its habitat by insects and huge forest fires, as well as predation from birds of prey like the Mexican Spotted Owl and the Northern goshawk and mammals like the Bobcat.

Dr Peter Lurz, a research associate based at Newcastle University’s Institute for Research on Environment and Sustainability, began working on the project when the Arizona University team attended an international squirrel symposium in North East England hosted by Newcastle University.

Dr Lurz said: “I think the important thing to remember is that there are multiple threats facing the Mount Graham Red Squirrel, and their survival depends on how these are best managed.”

The UK-US team have so far used the model to examine potential effect of predation and the Abert’s squirrel on squirrel population but are to expand on this: “The model will help identify areas where we need more research, will inform researchers’ field work and will ultimately help the team to identify how future conservation efforts can best be focused,” added Dr Lurz.

John Koprowski, associate professor with The University of Arizona’s School of Natural Resources, and MSc student David Wood are working on the project in the US.

Prof Koprowski said current conservation methods, such as limiting access to the mountain, restricting hunting and an existing squirrel refuge did not appear to be stemming the population’s decline. He said: “It’s very important that we preserve the Mount Graham Red Squirrel, which has survived since the last Ice Age. Its decline in recent years is an indication of something changing on the mountain, and we need to find out what it is.

He added: “There are also important ecological reasons to save it - for example the squirrel’s middens are an important source of food and habitat for chipmunks, voles, and mice, and the forest would be quite different without these animals. Moreover, if we can’t save a species in a relatively controlled, isolated environment like this, it doesn’t bode well for effective conservation of other species in more complex situations.”

Dr Peter Lurz | alfa
Further information:

More articles from Ecology, The Environment and Conservation:

nachricht Dispersal of Fish Eggs by Water Birds – Just a Myth?
19.02.2018 | Universität Basel

nachricht Removing fossil fuel subsidies will not reduce CO2 emissions as much as hoped
08.02.2018 | International Institute for Applied Systems Analysis (IIASA)

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: Locomotion control with photopigments

Researchers from Göttingen University discover additional function of opsins

Animal photoreceptors capture light with photopigments. Researchers from the University of Göttingen have now discovered that these photopigments fulfill an...

Im Focus: Surveying the Arctic: Tracking down carbon particles

Researchers embark on aerial campaign over Northeast Greenland

On 15 March, the AWI research aeroplane Polar 5 will depart for Greenland. Concentrating on the furthest northeast region of the island, an international team...

Im Focus: Unique Insights into the Antarctic Ice Shelf System

Data collected on ocean-ice interactions in the little-researched regions of the far south

The world’s second-largest ice shelf was the destination for a Polarstern expedition that ended in Punta Arenas, Chile on 14th March 2018. Oceanographers from...

Im Focus: ILA 2018: Laser alternative to hexavalent chromium coating

At the 2018 ILA Berlin Air Show from April 25–29, the Fraunhofer Institute for Laser Technology ILT is showcasing extreme high-speed Laser Material Deposition (EHLA): A video documents how for metal components that are highly loaded, EHLA has already proved itself as an alternative to hard chrome plating, which is now allowed only under special conditions.

When the EU restricted the use of hexavalent chromium compounds to special applications requiring authorization, the move prompted a rethink in the surface...

Im Focus: Radar for navigation support from autonomous flying drones

At the ILA Berlin, hall 4, booth 202, Fraunhofer FHR will present two radar sensors for navigation support of drones. The sensors are valuable components in the implementation of autonomous flying drones: they function as obstacle detectors to prevent collisions. Radar sensors also operate reliably in restricted visibility, e.g. in foggy or dusty conditions. Due to their ability to measure distances with high precision, the radar sensors can also be used as altimeters when other sources of information such as barometers or GPS are not available or cannot operate optimally.

Drones play an increasingly important role in the area of logistics and services. Well-known logistic companies place great hope in these compact, aerial...

All Focus news of the innovation-report >>>



Industry & Economy
Event News

Ultrafast Wireless and Chip Design at the DATE Conference in Dresden

16.03.2018 | Event News

International Tinnitus Conference of the Tinnitus Research Initiative in Regensburg

13.03.2018 | Event News

International Virtual Reality Conference “IEEE VR 2018” comes to Reutlingen, Germany

08.03.2018 | Event News

Latest News

Wandering greenhouse gas

16.03.2018 | Earth Sciences

'Frequency combs' ID chemicals within the mid-infrared spectral region

16.03.2018 | Physics and Astronomy

Biologists unravel another mystery of what makes DNA go 'loopy'

16.03.2018 | Life Sciences

Science & Research
Overview of more VideoLinks >>>