The earth is in the midst of a pronounced warming trend and temperatures in Minnesota, USA, as elsewhere, are projected to increase. Northern Minnesota represents the southern edge to the circumpolar distribution of moose (Alces alces), a species intolerant of heat. Moose increase their metabolic rate to regulate their core body temperature as temperatures rise. We hypothesized that moose survival rates would be a function of the frequency and magnitude that ambient temperatures exceeded the upper critical temperature of moose. We compared annual and seasonal moose survival in northeastern Minnesota between 2002 and 2008 with a temperature metric. We found that models based on January temperatures above the critical threshold were inversely correlated with subsequent survival and explained >78 of variability in spring, fall, and annual survival. Models based on late-spring temperatures also explained a high proportion of survival during the subsequent fall. A model based on warm-season temperatures was important in explaining survival during the subsequent winter. Our analyses suggest that temperatures may have a cumulative influence on survival. We expect that continuation or acceleration of current climate trends will result in decreased survival, a decrease in moose density, and ultimately, a retreat of moose northward from their current distribution.
Additional publication details
Temperature mediated moose survival in Northeastern Minnesota