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Can Camouflage Keep up with Climate Change? Connecting Climate Projections to Adaptation for the Snowshoe Hare

Can Camouflage Keep up with Climate Change? Connecting Downscaled Climate Models to Adaptation for a Key Forest Species

Dates

Start Date
2009
End Date
2011
Release Date
2009

Summary

Snowshoe hares are the primary food source of the federally threatened Canada lynx. In western Montana for example, snowshoe hare make up 96% of lynx diet. In fact, hares are critical players in forest ecosystems because most carnivores prey on them. The main way that snowshoe hares escape predation is through camouflage. In response to changes in day length, snowshoe hares molt seasonally, changing color from brown to white in the winter to blend in with the snowfall and hide from predators. However, due to shorter snow seasons caused by recent changes in climate, snowshoe hares are turning white before it snows, making them more visible to predators. Because 21 other species around the world also undergo these seasonal coat color [...]

Child Items (4)

Contacts

Principal Investigator :
Michael S Mitchell, L. Scott Mills
Co-Investigator :
Steven W Running
Funding Agency :
NCCWSC
CMS Group :
Climate Adaptation Science Centers (CASC) Program

Attached Files

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NCCW-2009-5_Snowshoe_hare_L.ScottMills1.JPG
“Snowshoe hare experience camouflage mismatch- Dr. L. Scott Mills Research Photo”
thumbnail 407.21 KB
NCCW-2009-5_Snowshoe_hare_L.ScottMills2.jpg
“Snowshoe hare experience camouflage mismatch- Dr. L. Scott Mills Research Photo”
thumbnail 691.46 KB
NCCW-2009-5_Snowshoe_hare_L.ScottMills3.jpg
“Snowshoe hare experience camouflage mismatch- Dr. L. Scott Mills Research Photo”
thumbnail 744.78 KB

Purpose

Existing high resolution climate models have not yet specifically connected ecologically relevant downscaled climate drivers to on-the-ground responses for wildlife species. This project uniquely addressed, in a comprehensive package, the linkage between downscaled, high-resolution climate models and the consequences of specific climate drivers on species and ecosystem-level adaptation. Snowshoe hares are the high-profile prey of the Federally Threatened Canada Lynx; in fact, hares are critical players in forest ecosystems, because most carnivores prey on them. Like many other species in temperate ecosystems (e.g. arctic foxes, weasels, ptarmigan), hares undergo a seasonal coat color molt to match the presence or absence of snow. Because a reduced duration of snowpack is the strongest signal of climate change in temperate regions, and because mismatch (white coat on non-snowy background) is likely to lead to high predation-induced mortality, the climate factors that make this species vulnerable to rapid decline are starkly clear. On the other hand, any species may respond to climate change by adapting or moving. This project provides wildlife managers with the first case study to connect field measurements of responses (adapt, move, or decline) to downscaled climate maps at ecologically relevant scales.

Project Extension

projectStatusCompleted

Snowshoe hare experience camouflage mismatch- Dr. L. Scott Mills Research Photo
Snowshoe hare experience camouflage mismatch- Dr. L. Scott Mills Research Photo

Map

Spatial Services

ScienceBase WMS

Communities

  • National CASC
  • National and Regional Climate Adaptation Science Centers

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