Author Topic: Scientists swap tales of a changing Alaska  (Read 1008 times)

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Offline Ptarmigan

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Scientists swap tales of a changing Alaska
« on: January 19, 2008, 07:32:50 PM »
Scientists swap tales of a changing Alaska
Cordova Times
January 17, 2008 at 11:39AM AKST
NED ROZELL

More Alaska-related news from the notebook after a week at the December meeting of the American Geophysical Union in San Francisco:

• In autumn 2007, temperatures north of Alaska over the Arctic Ocean were about 10 degrees Celsius warmer than longtime averages, and in November there was still open water on the Chukchi Sea.

"These are most likely the largest temperature anomalies on the globe for autumn," said John Walsh of the International Arctic Research Center during a talk he gave at the conference.

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One overlooked agent of change in Alaska's far north might be the ptarmigan, according to Ken Tape of UAF's Institute of Arctic Biology.

On spring traverses he's done recently by dog team, Tape noticed that ptarmigan have eaten willow buds from stems that stick above the snowline.

In certain areas, "97 percent of the buds were gone (just above the snow)," he said. "It's like hedging or something. Then they perch on branches to eat higher buds."

He said "tens of thousands" of ptarmigan hit the willows on their migrations from the Brooks Range to the North Slope, in January and February and then in April. The willows, which like birch shrubs seem to be thriving under changing conditions on the North Slope, are in turn benefiting ptarmigan and moose, Tape said.

Looks like warming of the Arctic benefits ptarmigans the most. Bunnies should seriously really think twice about waging war against ptarmigans.
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