Northeastern boreal forests are an important habitat type for many wildlife species, including migratory birds and moose. These animals play vital roles in the boreal forest ecosystem, are a source of pleasure for bird and wildlife watchers, and contribute to tourism revenue for many communities. However, moose and migratory birds are thought to be particularly vulnerable to the impacts of climate change. For example, in New York’s Adirondack Park system, five species of boreal birds have shown occupancy declines of 15% or more. Meanwhile, moose are threatened by winter ticks that thrive in warmer climates and spread disease. A 2018 New York Department of Environmental Conservation (NYDEC) report found that there are approximately 400 moose in the Adirondacks, which is down from previous estimates of 600-1,200 moose.
Building upon earlier work related to moose populations and management, this project continued to develop climate scenarios for moose management. Researchers applied these scenarios to moose management options developed by NYDEC managers. Additionally, they identified climate change impacts to bird communities in the Adirondacks and neighboring boreal ecosystems, and used existing research to describe the causes of decline in resident and migratory boreal bird species. The project also convened resource managers, state agencies, and NGOs to present results of long-term bird community analyses, and discuss best management practices in light of future plausible scenarios of change in boreal bird communities and habitat. Finally, this project aimed to explore how a changing climate may create opportunities for birds from areas further south and lower in elevation as they move into Adirondack Park.
By examining impacts to moose and bird communities, this project was designed to allow managers to contrast climate change impacts and adaptation options facing the boreal-dependent moose, which are able to thrive on a wide variety of food resources, compared to boreal birds, which have a more limited diet.
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“Adirondack Park - Credit: Alan Cressler”