Navigation Links
Ocean climate predicts elk population in Canadian Rockies

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.


'"/>

Source:University of Alberta


Related biology news :

1. Oceans more vulnerable to agricultural runoff than previously thought, study finds
2. Breakthrough System for Understanding Ocean Plant Life Announced
3. New Scripps Oceanography project to study sediments and ecosystem restoration in Venice lagoon
4. Oceans turning to acid from rise in CO2
5. The Antarctic Ocean floor
6. Ocean dead zones trigger sex changes in fish, posing extinction threat
7. Oceans are 70 percent shark free
8. Ocean virus identified in human blood samples
9. MIT: Oceans are a major gene swap-meet for plankton
10. Ocean acidification threatens cold-water coral ecosystems
11. Ocean temperature predicts spread of marine species
Post Your Comments:
*Name:
*Comment:
*Email:


(Date:4/24/2017)... Janice Kephart , former 9/11 ... Partners, LLP (IdSP) , today issues the following ... March 6, 2017 Executive Order: Protecting the ... be instilled with greater confidence, enabling the reactivation ... applications are suspended by until at least July ...
(Date:4/18/2017)... SUNNYVALE, Calif. , April 18, 2017  Socionext Inc., a ... prototype of a media edge server, the M820, which features the ... face recognition software provided by Tera Probe, Inc., will be showcased ... and at the NAB show at the Las Vegas ... ...
(Date:4/13/2017)... April 13, 2017 UBM,s Advanced Design and ... will feature emerging and evolving technology through its 3D ... will run alongside the expo portion of the event ... and demonstrations focused on trending topics within 3D printing ... and manufacturing event will take place June 13-15, 2017 at ...
Breaking Biology News(10 mins):
(Date:10/11/2017)... ... October 11, 2017 , ... The CRISPR-Cas9 ... enabling overexpression experiments and avoiding the use of exogenous expression plasmids. The simplicity ... for performing systematic gain-of-function studies. , This complement to loss-of-function studies, such ...
(Date:10/11/2017)... LAGUNA HILLS, Calif. , Oct. 11, 2017 /PRNewswire/ ... London (ICR) and University of ... tool to risk-stratify patients with multiple myeloma (MM), in a ... . The University of Leeds is ... Myeloma UK, and ICR will perform the testing services to ...
(Date:10/10/2017)... CA (PRWEB) , ... October ... ... a development-stage cancer-focused pharmaceutical company advancing targeted antibody-drug conjugate (ADC) therapeutics, today ... of targeted HPLN (Hybrid Polymerized Liposomal Nanoparticle), a technology developed in collaboration ...
(Date:10/10/2017)... (PRWEB) , ... October 10, 2017 , ... ... innovation and business process optimization firm for the life sciences and healthcare industries, ... conference in San Francisco. , The presentation, “Automating GxP Validation for Agile ...
Breaking Biology Technology: