Wildlife populations occurring at the edge of their range boundaries are thought to be the most sensitive to climate change due to temperatures being at or near the limit of a species’ thermal envelope. Moose (Alces americanus) are a cold adapted species that are showing population declines in some portions of the southern edge of their range. However, other moose populations are actively expanding southward into thermally stressful areas. The direct effects of temperature on moose have not yet been studied in these southwardly expanding populations and may offer insights into how moose are successfully establishing in areas at the edge of their thermal envelope. We used ambient temperature and GPScollar data from moose to quantify the direct effect of temperature on moose habitat use in Massachusetts, USA, which is one of these southwardly expanding populations. The mean daily temperature in our study area exceeded the reported physiological tolerances of moose in over 90% of daytime and 75% of nighttime locations in summer and in over 80% of daytime and 67% of nighttime locations in winter. Across seasons and times of day, moose preferred regenerating forest, but as ambient air temperatures increased, selection for regenerating forest declined and selection for forested wetlands and coniferous forestincreased. This response indicates moose are altering their behavior to utilize thermal shelters when temperatures are high. We observed higher temperatures and stronger behavioral responses than other studies at the southern edge of moose range. We found habitat for moose in Massachusetts is climatically marginal and loss of habitat, increase in parasites, and further climatic warming may cause population declines in the future.
Additional publication details
|Publication Subtype||Journal Article|
|Title||Range expansion in unfavorable environments through behavioral responses to microclimatic conditions: Moose (Alces americanus) as the model|
|Series title||Mammalian Biology|
|Contributing office(s)||Coop Res Unit Leetown|