Cooperative Fish and Wildlife Research Units Program: Alaska
Education, Research and Technical Assistance for Managing Our Natural Resources

Alaska Project

Differential effects of climate-mediated forest change on the habitats of two ungulates important to subsistence and sport hunting economies

July 2014 - June 2016


Participating Agencies

  • Alaska Climate Science Center

Climate change is a complex process that may affect the food resources of different species of wildlife in contrasting ways. Moose and caribou are important to both subsistence and sport hunting economies throughout Alaska, but their winter diets are quite different; caribou focus on snow covered ground hugging lichens while moose focus on the twigs of erect deciduous shrubs that protrude above the snow. This project will use output from the Integrated Ecosystem Model to estimate the differential effects of climate change on the quantity of food available to these two species throughout most of Alaska and parts of Canada, ~1970-2100. The model integrates the expected effects of climate on lichen and shrub production, wildfire and resulting plant community change, and the restrictions to food availability caused by deep snow and ground icing as a result of rain-on-snow. The results will be stratified by land ownership and landscape characteristics to provide maps of expected changes in winter food for moose and caribou that will be tailored to and directly useable by natural resource managers as they devise strategies for adapting to a changing climate.