EPSCoR - Alaska Adapting to Changing Environments

EPSCoR - Alaska Adapting to Changing Environments

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Range Expansion of Moose in Arctic Alaska Linked to Warming and Increased Shrub Habitat

Twentieth century warming has increased vegetation productivity and shrub cover across northern tundra and treeline regions, but effects on terrestrial wildlife have not been demonstrated on a comparable scale. During this period, Alaskan moose (Alces alces gigas) extended their range from the boreal forest into tundra riparian shrub habitat; similar extensions have been observed in Canada (A. a. andersoni) and Eurasia (A. a. alces). Northern moose distribution is thought to be limited by forage availability above the snow in late winter, so the observed increase in shrub habitat could be causing the northward moose establishment, but a previous hypothesis suggested that hunting cessation triggered moose establishment. Here, we use recent changes in shrub cover and empirical relationships between shrub height and growing season temperature to estimate available moose habitat in Arctic Alaska c. 1860. We estimate that riparian shrubs were approximately 1.1 m tall c. 1860, greatly reducing the available forage above the snowpack, compared to 2 m tall in 2009. We believe that increases in riparian shrub habitat after 1860 allowed moose to colonize tundra regions of Alaska hundreds of kilometers north and west of previous distribution limits. The northern shift in the distribution of moose, like that of snowshoe hares, has been in response to the spread of their shrub habitat in the Arctic, but at the same time, herbivores have likely had pronounced impacts on the structure and function of these shrub communities. These northward range shifts are a bellwether for other boreal species and their associated predators.

Data and Resources

  • View website
    Website :: Publisher's website

    http://dx.doi.org/10.1371/journal.pone.0152636

Status: Complete
Type: Project
Data Types: Report
Primary Contact
Kofinas, Gary
Email: gary.kofinas@alaska.edu
Primary Agency
EPSCoR - Alaska Adapting to Changing Environments
Type
Academic

Funding Agency
EPSCoR - Alaska Adapting to Changing Environments
Type
Academic

Other Agencies
National Science Foundation

ISO Topics
biota, climatologyMeteorologyAtmosphere

Geo-keywords
Alaska, Arctic

Direct Record Link
http://northern.epscor.alaska.edu/catalogs/11771-range-expansion-of-moose-in-arctic-alaska-linke
  • 01c8ceef3d596f40f05bf496ca00d929
    Published by Lisa
    2016-10-17 11:13:42 -0800
  • 01c8ceef3d596f40f05bf496ca00d929
    Updated by Lisa
    2016-10-17 11:13:23 -0800
  • A01710a84bb2b48878decca075ee597f
    Updated by Patrick
    2016-10-13 12:38:28 -0800
  • A01710a84bb2b48878decca075ee597f
    New record created
    2016-10-13 12:35:21 -0800
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