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Canadian researchers seek effective pine beetle bait

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Beetle-killed lodgepole pines in Summit County, Colorado.

Tracking pheromones may help resource managers slow the spread of infestation

By Summit Voice

*Read extensive coverage of mountain pine beetle and fores health at this Summit Voice link

FRISCO — While the mountain pine beetle epidemic has waned in most Colorado forests, the tiny insects are still killing huge swaths of trees in Canada, where researchers say they may be close finding an effective bait.

The University of Alberta scientists  say their results may enable forest managers to get ahead of the destructive spread of mountain pine beetle, which is now killing not only lodgepole pine forests, but jack pine. Continue reading

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Biodiversity: The complex web of Arctic life

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Pikas in the Arctic may rely on caterpillars to fertilize grass. Photo courtesy Kim Fenske.

Biologists document biological connection between pikas and Arctic caterpillars

By Summit Voice

SUMMIT COUNTY — With the Arctic warming up at a rapid pace, there’s a good chance that the ecosystems will change drastically at all levels. University of Alberta Researchers tracking those changes said they were surprised when they discovered a previously unknown relationship between pikas and Arctic caterpillars.

Biologist Isabel C. Barrio analyzed how two herbivores, caterpillars and pikas, competed for scarce vegetation in alpine areas of the southwest Yukon. The caterpillars come out of their winter cocoons and start consuming vegetation soon after the snow melts in June.

Weeks later, the pika starts gathering and storing food in its winter den. For the experiment, Barrio altered the numbers of caterpillars grazing on small plots of land surrounding pika dens.

“What we found was that the pikas preferred the patches first grazed on by caterpillars,” said Barrio. “We think the caterpillar’s waste acted as a natural fertilizer, making the vegetation richer and more attractive to the pika.” Continue reading

Oceans: Some good news for wild salmon?

Wild sockeye salmon. Photo courtesy NOAA.

Study suggests there may be ways to reduce sea lice impacts on Pacific Northwest salmon populations

By Summit Voice

SUMMIT COUNTY — Canadian researchers claim a simple change in the timing of treatment for sea lice has promoted better health in both farmed and wild salmon populations along the British Columbia coast.

The University of Alberta study focused on salmon farming operations  inthe Broughton Archipelago, between the mainland and the northern tip of Vancouver Island. The researchers describe the area as the historic ground zero for studying the impacts of aquaculture on wild Pacific salmon. Continue reading

Health: Tackling the obesity epidemic

Good, but not so healthy.

Mix of policy options needed to discourage junk food consumption and encourage healthy lifestyles

By Summit Voice

SUMMIT COUNTY — With obesity rates still on the rise in North America, governments are under pressure to take stronger regulatory steps to curb rising health-care costs for maladies such as diabetes, heart disease and some cancers.

A recently published series of papers from the University of Alberta examines some of the options available for policy makers seeking to promote healthier eating, including zoning restrictions on fast food restaurants, mandatory menu labels, higher taxes on junk food or even incentive-based approaches for pursuing a healthier lifestyle.

“Since eating and physical activity behavior are complex and influenced by many factors, a single policy measure on its own is not going to be the magic bullet,” said Nola Ries, of the university’s Faculty of Law’s Health Law and Science Policy Group. “Measures at multiple levels — directed at the food and beverage industry, at individuals, at those who educate and those who restrict — must work together to be effective.” Continue reading

Shifting climate hits Rocky Mountain ground squirrels

Columbian ground squirrel. Photo via Wikipedia and the Creative Commons.

Spring blizzards disrupt hibernation pattern; survival rate drops by 20 percent

By Summit Voice

SUMMIT COUNTY — Although there is an overall trend of decreasing spring snow cover in the northern hemisphere, some areas have been hit by unusual late blizzards. Now, University of Alberta biologists have documented how those late storns in the northern Rockies are changing the hibernation patterns of Columbian ground squirrels, with a potentially deadly effect.

Spring blizzards had delayed the animals’ emergence from hibernation by 10 days over the last 20 years, disrupting the delicate balance of breeding and the availability of food sources.

“Our data shows that, over the life of the study, the survival rate of adult females has fallen by 20 per cent and much of this could be due to late emergence from their burrows brought on by late spring snowfalls,” said Jeff Lane, an evolutionary biologist at the university. Continue reading

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