Sitka, AK, United States
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Buxton R.T.,Colorado State University | Brown E.,National Park Service | Sharman L.,Glacier Bay National Park and Preserve | Gabriele C.M.,Glacier Bay National Park and Preserve | McKenna M.F.,National Park Service
Ecology and Evolution | Year: 2016

Monitoring patterns in biodiversity and phenology have become increasingly important given accelerating levels of anthropogenic change. Long-term monitoring programs have reported earlier occurrence of spring activity, reflecting species response to climate change. Although tracking shifts in spring migration represents a valuable approach to monitoring community-level consequences of climate change, robust long-term observations are challenging and costly. Audio recordings and metrics of bioacoustic activity could provide an effective method for monitoring changes in songbird activity and broader biotic interactions. We used 3 years of spring and fall recordings at six sites in Glacier Bay National Park, Alaska, an area experiencing rapid warming and glacial retreat, to examine the utility of bioacoustics to detect changes in songbird phenology. We calculated the Acoustic Complexity Index (ACI), an algorithm representing an index of bird community complexity. Abrupt changes in ACI values from winter to spring corresponded to spring transition, suggesting that ACI may be an effective, albeit coarse metric to detect the arrival of migrating songbirds. The first peak in ACI shifted from April 16 to April 11 from 2012 to 2014. Changes in ACI were less abrupt in the fall due to weather events, suggesting spring recordings are better suited to indicate phenology. To ensure changes in ACI values were detecting real changes in songbird activity, we explored the relationship between ACI and song of three species: varied thrush (Ixoreus naevius), Pacific wren (Troglodytes pacificus), and ruby-crowned kinglet (Regulus calendula). ACI was positively related to counts of all species, but most markedly with song of the varied thrush, the most common species in our recordings and a known indicator of forest ecosystem health. We conclude that acoustic recordings paired with bioacoustic indices may be a useful method of monitoring shifts in songbird communities due to climate change and other sources of anthropogenic disturbance. © 2016 The Authors. Ecology and Evolution published by John Wiley & Sons Ltd.


News Article | September 7, 2016
Site: www.theenergycollective.com

Trees are dying across Yosemite and Yellowstone national parks. Glaciers are melting in Glacier Bay National Park and Preserve in Alaska. Corals are bleaching in Virgin Islands National Park. Published field research conducted in U.S. national parks has detected these changes and shown that human climate change – carbon pollution from our power plants, cars and other human activities – is the cause. As principal climate change scientist of the U.S. National Park Service, I conduct research on how climate change has already altered the national parks and could further change them in the future. I also analyze how ecosystems in the national parks can naturally reduce climate change by storing carbon. I then help national park staff to use the scientific results to adjust management actions for potential future conditions. Research in U.S. national parks contributes in important ways to global scientific understanding of climate change. National parks are unique places where it is easier to tell if human climate change is the main cause of changes that we observe in the field, because many parks have been protected from urbanization, timber harvesting, grazing and other nonclimate factors. The results of this research highlight how urgently we need to reduce carbon pollution to protect the future of the national parks. Human-caused climate change has altered landscapes, water, plants and animals in our national parks. Research in the parks has used two scientific procedures to show that this is occurring: detection and attribution. Detection is the finding of statistically significant changes over time. Attribution is the analysis of the different causes of the changes. Around the world and in U.S. national parks, snow and ice are melting. Glaciers in numerous national parks have contributed to the global database of 168 000 glaciers that the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) has used to show that human climate change is melting glaciers. Field measurements and repeat photography show that Muir Glacier in Glacier Bay National Park and Preserve in Alaska lost 640 meters to melting from 1948 to 2000. In Glacier National Park in Montana, Agassiz Glacier receded 1.5 kilometers from 1926 to 1979. Snow measurements and tree cores from Glacier National Park, North Cascades National Park, and other national parks contributed to an analysis showing that snowpack across the western U.S. has dropped to its lowest level in eight centuries. On land, climate change is shifting the ranges where plants grow. A global analysis that colleagues and I published in 2010 found that, around the world, climate change has shifted biomes – major types of vegetation, such as forests and tundra – upslope or toward the poles or the Equator. This type of research requires long-term monitoring of permanent plots or reconstruction of past vegetation species distributions using historical information or analyses of tree rings or other markers of the past. In the African Sahel, I uncovered a biome shift by hiking 1,900 kilometers, counting thousands of trees, reconstructing past tree species distributions through verified interviews with village elders and counting thousands of trees on historical aerial photos. Research has documented biome shifts in U.S. national parks. In Yosemite National Park, subalpine forest shifted upslope into subalpine meadows in the 20th century. In Noatak National Preserve, Alaska, boreal conifer forest shifted northward into tundra in the 19th and 20th centuries. Wildlife is also shifting. In Yosemite National Park, scientists compared the species of small mammals they captured in 2006 to the species originally captured along an elevation transect from 1914 to 1920 and showed that climate change shifted the ranges of the American pika and other species 500 meters upslope. Across the United States, the Audubon Society organizes its annual Christmas Bird Count in numerous national parks and other sites. Analyses of bird species results from 1975 to 2004 and possible local causes of changing distributions found that climate change shifted the winter ranges of a set of 254 bird species northward. Examples include northward shifts of the evening grosbeak (Coccothraustes vespertinus) in Shenandoah National Park and the canyon wren (Catherpes mexicanus) in Santa Monica Mountains National Recreation Area. Climate change is driving wildfires in and around many national parks in western states. Fire is natural and we need it to periodically renew forests, but too much wildfire can damage ecosystems and burn into towns and cities. Field data from 1916 to 2003 on wildfire in national parks and across the western U.S. show that, even during periods when land managers actively suppressed wildfires, fluctuations in the area that burned each year correlated with changes in temperature and aridity due to climate change. Reconstruction of fires of the past 2,000 years in Sequoia and Yosemite national parks confirms that temperature and drought are the dominant factors explaining fire occurrence. Climate change is killing trees due to increased drought, changes in wildfire patterns and increased bark beetle infestations. Tracking of trees in Kings Canyon, Lassen Volcanic, Mount Rainier, Rocky Mountain, Sequoia and Yosemite National Parks has contributed to a database that revealed how climate change has doubled tree mortality since 1955 across the western United States. High ocean temperatures due to climate change have bleached and killed coral. In 2005, hot sea surface temperatures killed up to 80 percent of coral reef area at sites in Biscayne National Park, Buck Island Reef National Monument, Salt River Bay National Historical Park and Ecological Preserve, Virgin Islands National Park and Virgin Islands Coral Reef National Monument. When the U.S. Congress established the National Park Service a century ago, it directed the agency to conserve the natural and cultural resources of the parks in ways to leave them “unimpaired for the enjoyment of future generations.” By altering the globally unique landscapes, waters, plants and animals of the national parks, climate change challenges the National Park Service to manage the parks for potential future conditions rather than as little pictures of a past to which we can no longer return. For example, Yosemite National Park resource managers plan to use climate change data to target prescribed burns and wildland fires in areas that will be different from the areas selected using estimates of fire distributions from the 1850s. At Golden Gate National Recreation Area, resource managers have examined stewardship plans resource-by-resource to develop actions that account for climate change. At Everglades National Park, managers are using sea level rise data to help plan management of coastal areas. It is in our power to reduce carbon pollution from cars, power plants and deforestation and prevent the most drastic consequences of climate change. In the face of climate change, we can help protect our most treasured places – the national parks. From Patrick Gonzalez, Principal Climate Change Scientist, National Park Service. This article was originally published on The Conversation. Read the original article.


Witteveen B.H.,University of Alaska Fairbanks | Straley J.M.,University of Alaska Southeast | Chenoweth E.,University of Alaska Southeast | Baker C.S.,Oregon State University | And 8 more authors.
Endangered Species Research | Year: 2011

Humpback whales Megaptera novaeangliae have been studied in the coastal waters of the Gulf of Alaska (GOA) since the late 1960s, but information about whales foraging offshore is limited. A large-scale collaborative project (SPLASH) provided opportunities to study humpback whales in both inshore and offshore habitats. Using identification photographs and biopsy samples, we explored individual movements, the distribution of mitochondrial (mtDNA) haplotypes, and trophic levels for humpback whales within 3 regions (Kodiak, KOD; Prince William Sound, PWS; and southeastern Alaska, SEAK) of the GOA to determine whether inshore and offshore aggregations of humpback whales are distinct. Each region was divided into inshore and offshore habitats, creating 6 subregions for comparison. Results documenting 2136 individual whales showed that movement within the study area was most frequent between inshore and offshore subregions within a region. In general, movement between regions was minimal. Tissue samples of 483 humpback whales included 15 mtDNA haplotypes. Pairwise chi-squared tests showed haplotype differences between subregions, but inshore PWS was the only subregion with a haplotype composition significantly different than all other subregions. Trophic levels, as inferred from stable nitrogen isotope ratios, were significantly different among subregions, ranging from 3.4 to 4.5. Pairwise comparisons showed that inshore PWS was again the only subregion that significantly differed from all others. Results suggest that the combined inshore and offshore habitats for KOD and the inshore and offshore habitats for SEAK should each be considered as single regional feeding aggregations, while inshore PWS may represent a separate aggregation from PWS offshore. © Inter-Research 2011.


Hendrix A.N.,R2 Resource Consultants Inc | Straley J.,University of Alaska Southeast | Gabriele C.M.,Glacier Bay National Park and Preserve | Gende S.M.,Glacier Bay Field Station
Canadian Journal of Fisheries and Aquatic Sciences | Year: 2012

We used a mechanistic movement model within a Bayesian framework to estimate survival, abundance, and rate of increase for a population of humpback whales (Megaptera novaeangliae) subject to a long-term photographic capture-recapture effort in southeastern Alaska, USA (SEAK). Multiple competing models were fitted that differed in movement, recapture rates, and observation error using deviance information criterion. The median annual survival probability in the selected model was 0.996 (95% central probability interval (CrI): 0.984, 0.999), which is among the highest reported for this species. Movement among areas was temporally dynamic, although whales exhibited high area fidelity (probability of returning to same area of ≥0.75) throughout the study. Median abundance was 1585 whales in 2008 (95% CrI: 1455, 1644). Incorporating an abundance estimate of 393 (95% confidence interval: 331, 455) whales from 1986, the median rate of increase was 5.1% (95% CrI: 4.4%, 5.9%). Although applied here to cetaceans in SEAK, the framework provides a flexible approach for estimating mortality and movement in populations that move among sampling areas.


Lewis T.M.,Glacier Bay National Park and Preserve | Pyare S.,University of Alaska Southeast | Hundertmark K.J.,University of Alaska Fairbanks
Journal of Biogeography | Year: 2015

Aim: We examined contemporary genetic structure of brown bears (Ursus arctos) in a recently deglaciated landscape to identify the number and geographical range of populations, the level of admixture, landscape features that limit or promote genetic connectivity, and probable population sources of bears in Glacier Bay following the end of the Little Ice Age (LIA). We sought to determine whether brown bears exhibit genetic structure corresponding with landscape features and whether source populations of recent colonizers could be determined using nuclear genetic markers. Location: Southeast Alaska is composed of many islands, fjords and ice-covered lands with a complex history of changing glaciation and sea level throughout the Pleistocene and into the Holocene. Glacier Bay was again covered by ice during the LIA until c. 260 years ago when rapid retreat began exposing land for colonization. Methods: We used DNA microsatellites to examine the genetic diversity of 105 brown bears. We identified the number of genetically distinct populations and the degree of admixture using Bayesian allele frequency assignment tests, determined colonizing population sources based on fixation and differentiation indices, and tested correlations between the genetic relatedness and a suite of landscape models. Results: The shoreline of Glacier Bay hosts brown bears from at least two distinct genetic populations which may represent contemporary colonizing sources. There is also indication of a third group specific to Glacier Bay that may represent a historical colonizing population. The three genetic populations overlap in northern Glacier Bay, with relatively low admixture between the populations, indicating current immigration. Main conclusions: Glacier Bay fjord inhibits dispersal and funnels recolonizing bears from east and west refugia in a northward direction. At the northern end of Glacier Bay these populations are currently coming into secondary contact after hundreds and possibly thousands of years of separation, creating a population-level biological contact zone. © 2015 John Wiley & Sons Ltd.


Haynes T.B.,University of Alaska Fairbanks | Campbell M.A.,University of Alaska Fairbanks | Neilson J.L.,Glacier Bay National Park and Preserve | Lopez J.A.,University of Alaska Fairbanks
Marine Ornithology | Year: 2014

Cetaceans and seabirds frequently come into close contact when they target the same prey. Seabirds are generally thought to benefit from these associations; however, here we report a negative consequence for seabirds from associating with Humpback Whales Megaptera novaeangliae. We examined the remains of three seabirds found in a Humpback Whale fecal sample from Glacier Bay, Alaska. Genetic identification of the carcasses revealed one to be an Ancient Murrelet Synthliboramphus antiquus and two to be Marbled Murrelets Brachyramphus marmoratus. Presumably, these birds were accidentally ingested while the whale was foraging.

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