Tag: Yellowstone

Can grizzlies survive global warming?

New study shows many bears still rely on dwindling whitebark pine seeds

An adult grizzly bear in the brush. Photo courtesy USFWS.

Staff Report

The long-term survival of grizzles in the Greater Yellowstone ecosystem may depend on whether they’re willing to switch from eating whitebark pine seeds to other types food.

Some of the bears have already started responding to reductions in whitebark trees by consuming more plants and berries, while others are still focused on finding stashes of the nutritious pine nuts, scientists said in a new study based on analyzing the chemical composition of what the grizzlies eat. Continue reading “Can grizzlies survive global warming?”

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Climate connections

Fish die-offs spread, winter retreats and ocean currents are changing

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The meltdown of glaciers and ice shelves around both poles is starting to affect the circulation of the oceans. @bbberwyn photo.

By Bob Berwyn

My recent reporting for InsideClimate News includes coverage of the massive Yellowstone fish kill, something that anglers and fisheries managers in Colorado also should probably be prepared for as rivers warm to a level that is conducive to the spread of parasites. Read the details here: Fish Deaths in Montana’s Yellowstone River Tied to Warming Waters.

I also explored how Austria is preparing for climate change. The mountainous country has seen its average temperature increase at nearly twice the global average in the past century, with huge implications for water supplies, agriculture, urban heatwaves and tourism. But rather than argue about the causes, Austrians are actively trying to figure out how to make their society and ecosystems more resilient to the changes ahead. Read here: Austria Braces for Winter’s Retreat.

There’s other research showing a significant shift in most key ocean currents that run along the edges of continents. Those currents are key drivers of weather systems and the changes documented by scientists suggest that the currents are strengthening and transporting more heat, which is affecting weather in densely populated areas. China and Japan, in particular, can expect more devastating storms and typhoons in the future: In Warming Oceans, Stronger Currents Releasing Heat in Bigger Storms.

It seems pretty clear that we have to try and prevent runaway climate change and the way to do that is to stop spewing heat-trapping pollution into the sky. We need to bite the bullet and figure out how to decarbonize our energy systems and economy in the most rational way, which means making plans and decisions now, not in 20 years. Every additional dollar used to subsidize fossil fuels, or to build fossil fuel infrastructure, is another nail in our own coffin. Offshore wind power is still grossly under-utilized in the U.S. but that is starting to change.

Offshore wind makes so much sense because the power sources can developed near the large coastal cities that are the largest consumers of power from the grid. Here’s how Hawaii is approaching the issue: Hawaii Eyes Offshore Wind to Reach its Clean Energy Goal.

Environment: Massive fish kill reported in Yellowstone River

A Colorado Division of Wildlife biologist holds a young rainbow trout before releasing it into the Blue River in Silverthorne. The fingerling was raised in a cross-breeding program to develop a strain of fish resistant to parasitic whirling disease that all but wiped out rainbow trout across parts of the West.
A  young rainbow trout @bberwyn photo.

Disease may be exacerbated by warm water, low stream flows

Staff Report

The Yellowstone River, part of Montana’s iconic western landscape, is once again beset by environmental woes, as a rapidly spreading fish kill has spurred state resource managers to close the river to all recreational uses, including fishing, boating and tubing. Biologists with Montana Fish, Wildlife and Parks said they’ve counted more than 2,000  dead mountain whitefish, and the estimate the total mortality in the tens of thousands. The river was also hammered by an oilspill in 2011 after pipeline burst. Continue reading “Environment: Massive fish kill reported in Yellowstone River”

Study: Yellowstone bison not to blame for brucellosis

Elk deemed mostly responsible for spreading disease to livestock

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Elk feeding a big factor in spread of brucellosis. @bberwyn photo.

Staff Report

The most rapidly spreading strains of brucellosis, a disease with implications for livestock and wildlife management, appear to be centered around areas where humans feed elk to keep populations artificially high for hunters.

Those findings come from scientists with the U.S. Geological Survey and partners, who studied how the disease is transmitted back and forth between cattle, bison and elk in the greater Yellowstone area. Notably, the researchers found that a fifth, genetically distinct strain, originated, and was mainly found in bison of Yellowstone National Park. This strain appeared to be spreading less rapidly. Continue reading “Study: Yellowstone bison not to blame for brucellosis”

Study shows conflict between wolf watching and wolf hunting

Trapping and hunting near parks cuts has big impact

Wolves on the Denali Park Road. Photo courtesy NPS/Nathan Kostegian.
Wolves on the Denali Park Road. Photo courtesy NPS/Nathan Kostegian.

Staff Report

Many Americans travel thousands of miles for a chance to spot wolves in the wild, but a new study shows that their chance of spotting the predators decreases dramatically when hunting and trapping is allowed. In 2013, Public Employees for Environmental Responsibility first raised the alarm that dwindling wolf numbers near Denali National Park are affecting wildlife watching.

The new research, published in the journal PLOS ONE, suggests visitors to national parks were just  half as likely to see wolves in their natural habitat when wolf hunting was permitted just outside Denali National Park’s boundaries during a period from 1997- 2013. Other important factors linked to wolf viewing rates include, the proximity of wolf dens to the Park Road and the regional wolf population.

In 2013, documents obtained by PEER showed wolf hunting and trapping near Denali National Park had cut the regional wolf population by nearly two-thirds and significantly reduced opportunities for park visitors to see wolves in the wild. Continue reading “Study shows conflict between wolf watching and wolf hunting”

Genetic study suggests Yellowstone grizzlies are headed toward recovery

An adult grizzly bear in the brush. PHOTO COURTESY THE U.S. FISH AND WILDLIFE SERVICE.
Are grizzlies in Yellowstone headed toward recovery? Photo courtesy USFWS.

USGS researchers track effective population size with DNA sampling

Staff Report

A new genetic study suggests the grizzly bear population in the Greater Yellowstone ecosystem is growing to near the size needed to maintain healthy genetic diversity.

The latest report from the Interagency Grizzly Bear Study Team is sure to add more fuel to the controversy over whether grizzlies should taken off the Endangered Species List, as proposed by federal resource managers. Many conservation biologists say grizzlies are nowhere near recovery and that the move to delist them is based on politics, not science. Continue reading “Genetic study suggests Yellowstone grizzlies are headed toward recovery”

Return of wolves leads to aspen resurgence in Yellowstone

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Ecosystems need top-level predators to remain healthy. bberwyn photo.

Predator restoration stirs the ecosystem pot

By Summit Voice

FRISCO — Long term ecological monitoring in Yellowstone National Park shows a surge in aspen growth following the restoration of wolves to the ecosystem, with overall shifts in landscape conditions not seen in more than a century.

A series of studies show the recovery of vegetation as elk numbers drop, a decline driven by the return of the region’s apex predators. Biologists long hypothesized that wolves keep elk populations in check and also affect their grazing habits. Continue reading “Return of wolves leads to aspen resurgence in Yellowstone”