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SELAWIK: Learning about Lichens
Alaska Region, May 9, 2008
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A study is underway to address growing concerns about the condition of the Western Arctic Caribou Herd's winter range.
A study is underway to address growing concerns about the condition of the Western Arctic Caribou Herd's winter range. - Photo Credit: n/a

The Western Arctic Caribou Herd, the largest caribou herd in Alaska, crosses the Selawik Refuge on its annual migrations.  With the herd’s size at a historic high, concern about its primary winter forage—lichens—is growing. This summer biologists will be collecting vegetation data on the Refuge and adjacent federal lands to learn about the condition of the herd’s winter range in northwest Alaska.  Fire, grazing by the herd, and climate change are all affecting this winter range.  These factors are interactive, but appear to be leading to a declining lichen cover.

This project is part of a larger Bureau of Land Management study to assess caribou range.  The Refuge will assist in the completion of the winter range portion of the study, dovetailing with an existing ecological land cover mapping project that the Refuge is also conducting.  Kyle Joly, a PhD student at University of Alaska Fairbanks and a National Park Service employee, will lead the project. We plan on sharing the results at the North American Caribou Conference this fall, the Western Arctic Caribou Herd Working Group meeting in December, and in peer-reviewed journals.


Contact Info: Kristen Gilbert, 907-786-3391, Kristen_Gilbert@fws.gov



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