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:1/21/2019)... , ... January 20, 2019 , ... Energetiq Technology, a ... company, Hamamatsu Photonics, at the SPIE BIOS and SPIE Photonics West events taking place ... will be in booth #8526 at Bios and in booth #941 at Photonics West. ...
(Date:1/20/2019)... ... 2019 , ... January has been a record-breaking month so far for Lajollacooks4u, ... company already hosted several of its signature cooking classes and team-building events, but it ... this month. , Since 2008, Lajollacooks4u’s team-building events have been a favorite for ...
(Date:1/14/2019)... ... January 14, 2019 , ... ... detect precancer and cancer cells in blood, will present new findings at the ... the fight against colorectal cancer. The results from this study show CellMax Life’s ...
Breaking Biology News(10 mins):
(Date:2/16/2019)... ... February 14, 2019 , ... DaVinci ... sharing capability that also provides the flexibility for users to bring their own ... provides a shared workbench to conduct quick analytics on near-real-time data to gain ...
(Date:2/6/2019)... ... 05, 2019 , ... Firmex announced today that VERTU Capital ... Firmex, one of the fastest-growing and most widely-used providers of virtual data rooms ... financing was provided by the Bank of Montreal. , Headquartered in Toronto, Canada, ...
(Date:2/2/2019)... ... , ... Signature Matrix and Signature Cord are the culmination ... cell research expert and Amazon best-selling author, Neil Riordan, PA, PhD, and his ... allograft that originates from the same tissue used to manufacture the purified, expanded ...
(Date:1/30/2019)... ... January 29, 2019 , ... ... and Manufacturing Organization (CDMO) serving the global biopharmaceutical and biotechnology industries with sites ... $59.1 million backed by multiple global investors lead by China's State Development & ...
Breaking Biology Technology: