Nav: Home

Elk avoid beetle-killed forest areas

February 15, 2019

Loss of the heat-shielding forest canopy and the obstacle of fallen trees have caused elk to avoid beetle-killed areas of the Medicine Bow-Routt National Forest, according to new research by University of Wyoming scientists.

Those factors more than offset the gains in nutritious grasses and other vegetation desired by elk that have resulted from the region's bark beetle epidemic, says the research led by recent UW master's degree graduate Bryan Lamont and supervised by UW Professors Kevin Monteith and Matt Kauffman of the Wyoming Cooperative Fish and Wildlife Research Unit. As with many wildlife studies in Wyoming, this was a collaborative effort between university researchers and biologists with the Wyoming Game and Fish Department, who are charged with managing the elk herd amid the massive forest disturbance.

"Although it is common following forest disturbances for elk to seek out and capitalize on the resulting increases in highly palatable and nutritious forage, during the summer months, elk in our study area fairly consistently avoided beetle-kill," Lamont says. "This result is somewhat counter to how we typically think elk respond to forest disturbances. It appears there are some subtle but real differences between disturbances such as forest fires and the bark beetle epidemic."

The research, published in the Journal of Wildlife Management, suggests that removal of standing dead trees and downed logs in the beetle-killed forests of the Sierra Madre Mountains might benefit the area's population of 6,500-8,500 elk. As it is, the bark beetle epidemic "has altered how elk use the landscape and has resulted in a potential loss of forest habitat that elk use during the day," the scientists wrote.

The research involved collaring and GPS tracking of 71 female elk between 2012-16 in the Sierra Madres, where thousands of acres of lodgepole pine trees have been killed by bark beetles in the past two decades. The beetle epidemic there peaked around 2009, so the study period took place when trees were just beginning to fall.

The researchers found that, while previous studies showed elk often move into areas disturbed by fires or timber harvest to take advantage of new plant growth, that isn't happening in the Sierra Madres. In fact, the elk strongly avoid beetle-killed areas in the summer. That's likely because elk must expend significant amounts of energy to walk over downed logs and cool themselves in the beetle-killed areas.

"Ultimately, this means that if elk are avoiding beetle-killed areas, this translates to much less forest habitat that elk typically would utilize during the summer," Lamont says. The findings provide valuable insights for wildlife and land managers across the West, who face challenges from the bark beetle epidemic "that have not been encountered in modern wildlife management," the paper says.

"Treating beetle-killed areas with excessive standing dead and downed trees through prescribed fire or other removal techniques may be effective at reducing the negative costs to elk from beetle-killed forests; provide elk with the adequate mixture of foraging areas and hiding and thermal cover; and potentially decrease conflicts caused by redistribution," the scientists concluded.

University of Wyoming

Related Plant Growth Articles:

A tiny arctic shrub reveals secrets of plant growth on Svalbard
It's not easy being a tiny willow on the wind-and snow-blasted islands of the Norwegian territory of Svalbard.
How to boost plant biomass: Biologists uncover molecular link between nutrient availability, growth
In a new study published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences (PNAS), plant genomic scientists at New York University's Center for Genomics & Systems Biology discovered the missing piece in the molecular link between a plant's perception of the nitrogen dose in its environment and the dose-responsive changes in its biomass.
Newly discovered driver of plant cell growth contradicts current theories
The shape and growth of plant cells may not rely on increased fluidic pressure, or turgor, inside the cell as previously believed.
Research identifies possible on/off switch for plant growth
New research from UC Riverside identifies a protein that controls plant growth -- good news for an era in which crops can get crushed by climate change.
Introducing GMpi: Affordable and adaptable remote monitoring for plant growth experiments
Growth chambers are essential for plant research, and it's necessary to be able to control and monitor environmental variables.
Agriculture of the future: Neural networks have learned to predict plant growth
Scientists from Skoltech have trained neural networks to evaluate and predict the plant growth pattern taking into account the main influencing factors and propose the optimal ratio between the nutrient requirements and other growth-driving parameters.
How a protein connecting calcium and plant hormone regulates plant growth
A new Tel Aviv University study finds that a unique mechanism involving calcium, the plant hormone auxin and a calcium-binding protein is responsible for regulating plant growth.
Cigarette butts hamper plant growth -- study
Researchers have shown for the first time that cigarette butts reduce plant growth.
Nitrogen from biosolids can help urban soils and plant growth
Research determines bioavailable nitrogen content of different biosolid products.
How to feed the world by 2050? Recent breakthrough boosts plant growth by 40 percent
Recent advances to address hunger through agricultural discovery will be highlighted at this year's annual meeting of the AAAS.
More Plant Growth News and Plant Growth Current Events

Trending Science News

Current Coronavirus (COVID-19) News

Top Science Podcasts

We have hand picked the top science podcasts of 2020.
Now Playing: TED Radio Hour

Making Amends
What makes a true apology? What does it mean to make amends for past mistakes? This hour, TED speakers explore how repairing the wrongs of the past is the first step toward healing for the future. Guests include historian and preservationist Brent Leggs, law professor Martha Minow, librarian Dawn Wacek, and playwright V (formerly Eve Ensler).
Now Playing: Science for the People

#566 Is Your Gut Leaking?
This week we're busting the human gut wide open with Dr. Alessio Fasano from the Center for Celiac Research and Treatment at Massachusetts General Hospital. Join host Anika Hazra for our discussion separating fact from fiction on the controversial topic of leaky gut syndrome. We cover everything from what causes a leaky gut to interpreting the results of a gut microbiome test! Related links: Center for Celiac Research and Treatment website and their YouTube channel
Now Playing: Radiolab

The Flag and the Fury
How do you actually make change in the world? For 126 years, Mississippi has had the Confederate battle flag on their state flag, and they were the last state in the nation where that emblem remained "officially" flying.  A few days ago, that flag came down. A few days before that, it coming down would have seemed impossible. We dive into the story behind this de-flagging: a journey involving a clash of histories, designs, families, and even cheerleading. This show is a collaboration with OSM Audio. Kiese Laymon's memoir Heavy is here. And the Hospitality Flag webpage is here.