Monday, 16 November 2015

Shrubs on warming North Slope attract moose, hares

Date: November 11, 2015
Source: University of Alaska Fairbanks

Snowshoe hares and moose, which are both relative newcomers to Alaska's North Slope, may have become established in the area with the help of warming temperatures and thicker vegetation.

A recent study concludes that climate change gradually led to taller shrubs on the North Slope, which provides a habitat boost for animals that take advantage of denser cover.

Ken Tape, an assistant professor with the University of Alaska Fairbanks Water and Environmental Research Center, led the research effort. He said hares seem to be clear beneficiaries of the warming environment -- they hadn't been observed on the North Slope before 1977 but have found a home there in recent decades.

A similar pattern may have helped moose, which hadn't been reported in the area before 1930.

"If you double or triple the amount of habitat along a river, you might go from having no snowshoe hares and no moose to having them inhabit that corridor," Tape said.

Results from the study were published last week in the journal Global Change Biology.

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