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Wolverines threatened by climate change, earlier springs
Date:2/8/2011

The aggressive wolverine may not be powerful enough to survive climate change in the contiguous United States, new research concludes.

Wolverine habitat in the northwestern United States is likely to warm dramatically if society continues to emit large amounts of greenhouse gases, according to new computer model simulations carried out at the National Center for Atmospheric Research (NCAR) in Boulder, Colo.

"The researchers have combined regional-scale climate projections with knowledge of a single species and its unique habitat to examine its vulnerability to a changing climate," says Sarah Ruth, program director in NSF's Directorate for Geosciences, which funds NCAR.

"This study is an example of how targeted climate predictions can produce new insights that could help us reduce the impact of future climate change on delicate ecosystems."

Climate change is likely to imperil the wolverine in two ways: reducing or eliminating the springtime snow cover that wolverines rely on for raising their young, and increasing August temperatures well beyond what the species may be able to tolerate.

"Species that depend on snow cover for their survival are likely to be very vulnerable to climate change," says NCAR scientist Synte Peacock, the lead author of a paper reporting the study's results.

"It's highly uncertain whether wolverines will continue to survive in the lower 48, given the changes that are likely to take place there."

Peacock's research focused on mountainous regions of the Northwest, the primary habitat of the wolverine population in the contiguous United States.

Results of the study were published last week in Environmental Research Letters. The work was funded by the National Science Foundation (NSF), NCAR's sponsor.

Wolverines make their home mainly in the boreal forests and tundra regions of North America, Europe and Asia.

Their thick oily fur insulates wolv
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Contact: Cheryl Dybas
cdybas@nsf.gov
703-292-7734
National Science Foundation
Source:Eurekalert  

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