Sunday, 19 August 2018

NASA satellites assist states in estimating abundance of key wildlife species



Date:  August 9, 2018
Source:  S.J. & Jessie E. Quinney College of Natural Resources, Utah State University

Summary:
Climate and land-use change are shrinking natural wildlife habitats around the world. Yet despite their importance to rural economies and natural ecosystems, remarkably little is known about the geographic distribution of most wild species -- especially those that migrate seasonally over large areas.

Climate and land-use change are shrinking natural wildlife habitats around the world. Yet despite their importance to rural economies and natural ecosystems, remarkably little is known about the geographic distribution of most wild species -- especially those that migrate seasonally over large areas. By combining NASA satellite imagery with wildlife surveys conducted by state natural resources agencies, a team of researchers at Utah State University and the University of Maryland, and the U.S. Geological Survey modeled the effects of plant productivity on populations of mule deer and mountain lions. Specifically, they mapped the abundance of both species over a climatically diverse region spanning multiple western states.
These models provide new insights into how differences in climate are transmitted through the food chain, from plants to herbivores and then to predators. Prey and predator abundance both increased with plant productivity, which is governed by precipitation and temperature. Conversely, animals responded to decreases in food availability by moving and foraging over larger areas, which could lead to increased conflict with humans. David Stoner, lead author of the study, "Climatically driven changes in primary production propagate through trophic levels" published today in the journal Global Change Biology, remarked that, "We expected to see that satellite measurements of plant productivity would explain the abundance of deer. However, we were surprised to see how closely the maps of productivity also predicted the distribution of the mountain lion, their major predator."


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