Title: Big changes in cold places: the future of wildlife habitat in northwest Alaska
Author: Vizcarra, Natasha; Marcot, Bruce;
Source: Science Findings 186. Portland, OR: U.S. Department of Agriculture, Forest Service, Pacific Northwest Research Station. 5 p.
Publication Series: Science Findings
Description: Higher global temperatures are changing ecosystems in the Arctic. They are becoming greener as the climate and land become more hospitable to taller vegetation. Scientists predict that woody vegetation in the Arctic will increase by more than 50 percent, and half of all vegetated areas will shift to types more suited to the higher temperatures and changing physical conditions. The implications for wildlife and people living in the Arctic are striking and hinge on rapid changes affecting ecosystems and habitats.
Bruce Marcot, a research wildlife biologist with the Pacific Northwest Research Station, is the lead scientist for the multi-agency Wildlife Potential Habitat Forecasting (WildCast) Project, which has projected climate change impacts on ecosystems and wildlife habitats in northwest Alaska. WildCast researchers anticipated that expansion of shrubs and trees will be driven by major disturbances including an increase in fire, vegetation succession, and thawing permafrost.
WildCast models projected that out of 201 bird and mammal species, 52 percent will experience habitat expansion, 45 percent will see habitat contractions, and 3 percent will have no change. They also found that declines in habitat will occur for half of the 50 bird and mammal species used for local subsistence hunting and trapping, and declines will occur in the habitat of small mammals that are the major prey base for many carnivores.
Keywords: wildlife habitat, northwest Alaska, climate change, WildCast
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Vizcarra, Natasha; Marcot, Bruce. 2016. Big changes in cold places: the future of wildlife habitat in northwest Alaska. Science Findings 186. Portland, OR: U.S. Department of Agriculture, Forest Service, Pacific Northwest Research Station. 5 p.
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