Navigation Links
Dramatic links found between climate change, elk, plants, and birds
Date:1/10/2012

Climate change in the form of reduced snowfall in mountains is causing powerful and cascading shifts in mountainous plant and bird communities through the increased ability of elk to stay at high elevations over winter and consume plants, according to a groundbreaking study in Nature Climate Change.

The U.S. Geological Survey and University of Montana study not only showed that the abundance of deciduous trees and their associated songbirds in mountainous Arizona have declined over the last 22 years as snowpack has declined, but it also experimentally demonstrated that declining snowfall indirectly affects plants and birds by enabling more winter browsing by elk. Increased winter browsing by elk results in trickle-down ecological effects such as lowering the quality of habitat for songbirds.

The authors, USGS Montana Cooperative Wildlife Research Unit scientist Thomas Martin and University of Montana scientist John Maron, mimicked the effects of more snow on limiting the ability of elk to browse on plants by excluding the animals from large, fenced areas. They compared bird and plant communities in these exclusion areas with nearby similar areas where elk had access, and found that, over the six years of the study, multi-decadal declines in plant and songbird populations were reversed in the areas where elk were prohibited from browsing.

"This study illustrates that profound impacts of climate change on ecosystems arise over a time span of but two decades through unexplored feedbacks," explained USGS director Marcia McNutt. "The significance lies in the fact that humans and our economy are at the end of the same chain of cascading consequences."

The study demonstrates a classic ecological cascade, added Martin. For example, he said, from an elk's perspective, less snow means an increased ability to freely browse on woody plants in winter in areas where they would not be inclined to forage in previous times due to high snowpack. Increased overwinter browsing led to a decline in deciduous trees, which reduced the number of birds that chose the habitat and increased predation on nests of those birds that did choose the habitat.

"This study demonstrates that the indirect effects of climate on plant communities may be just as important as the effects of climate-change-induced mismatches between migrating birds and food abundance because plants, including trees, provide the habitat birds need to survive," Martin said.


'/>"/>

Contact: Catherine Puckett
cpuckett@usgs.gov
352-377-2469
United States Geological Survey
Source:Eurekalert

Related biology news :

1. World fertilizer prices drop dramatically after soaring to all-time highs
2. Dramatic expansion of dead zones in the oceans
3. Hoarding rainwater could dramatically expand range of dengue-fever mosquito
4. Duke software dramatically speeds enzyme design
5. Einstein and Pitt researchers develop new TB test that will dramatically cut diagnosis time
6. First ever worldwide census analysis of caribou/reindeer numbers reveals dramatic decline
7. CSHL-led team discovers rare mutation dramatically increasing schizophrenia risk
8. Report shows dramatic decline in Siberian tigers
9. Simple math explains dramatic beak shape variation in Darwins finches
10. Womens support groups make dramatic improvements on neonatal survival rates
11. Single gene dramatically boosts yield, sweetness in tomato hybrids, CSHL-Israeli study finds
Post Your Comments:
*Name:
*Comment:
*Email:
(Date:5/16/2017)... TEANECK, N.J. , May 16, 2017  Veratad ... leading provider of online age and identity verification solutions, ... the K(NO)W Identity Conference 2017, May 15 thru May ... Ronald Regan Building and International Trade Center. ... across the globe and in today,s quickly evolving digital ...
(Date:4/19/2017)... New York , April 19, 2017 ... competitive, as its vendor landscape is marked by the ... the market is however held by five major players ... Safran. Together these companies accounted for nearly 61% of ... of the leading companies in the global military biometrics ...
(Date:4/13/2017)... -- According to a new market research report "Consumer IAM ... and Authorization), Service, Authentication Type, Deployment Mode, Vertical, and Region - Global ... grow from USD 14.30 Billion in 2017 to USD 31.75 Billion by ... ... MarketsandMarkets Logo ...
Breaking Biology News(10 mins):
(Date:6/14/2017)... (PRWEB) , ... June 13, ... ... a holistic approach for understanding the phenotype of an organism on a ... sample throughput and complicated data processing remain major bottlenecks to biomarker discovery ...
(Date:6/13/2017)... Woburn, MA (PRWEB) , ... ... ... Incorporated, a leading international supplier of advanced flexible materials, has chosen The ... Forecasting a significant growth trajectory, Boyd Technologies is aligning its manufacturing operations ...
(Date:6/13/2017)... ... June 13, 2017 , ... ... the American Chemical Society (ACS) Green Chemistry Institute’s 21st Annual Green ... Dr. Feehery will address other business leaders, policy makers, educators, students and professionals ...
(Date:6/12/2017)... ... 2017 , ... June 12th, Commonwealth Informatics, a leading provider ... Barrow has joined the team as Associate Director. At Commonwealth, Paul will be ... by leveraging capabilities in the Commonwealth Vigilance Workbench (CVW) . The ...
Breaking Biology Technology: