In an effort to understand a recent decline of the caribou population located on Unimak Island, a habitat suitability study was initiated by Izembek NWR, ADF&G, UAA, and UAF in 2011. Satellite-vhf collars were deployed on seven female caribou on Unimak Island in April 2011. Caribou are monitored weekly to determine seasonal habitat use, distribution, and annual survival rates. The plant communities (specifically caribou forage species) and caribou movements are being mapped simultaneously using GIS and remote sensing techniques to determine habitat quality and quantity for caribou on Unimak Island. Additionally, nutritional analyses of caribou forage are being conducted. These factors will be modeled to determine the overall carrying capacity of Unimak Island for use in future caribou management strategies.
Most wildlife refuges do not have a comprehensive baseline inventory of the fish, wildlife and plants that live there, espcially in areas as wide and vast as Alaska. To effectively conserve resources, we need to understand the abundance and distribution of species and their interactions with habitat as well as the trends caused by environmental change. An Inventory and Monitoring (I&M) initiative was established in 2010 to gather, analyze and disseminate scientifically rigorous biological data on national wildlife refuges.
On Izembek, refuge biologists are collaborating with Pennsylvania State University are collaborating to develop a biodiversity assessment and monitoring program for Izembek Refuge. An evaluation framework has been developed and distributed to a panel of evaluators. This effort will assist refuge staff in objectively prioritizing future inventory, monitoring, and research efforts on the refuge. A component of this research includes investigating responses of wildlife and habitat to climate change and human disturbances. Initial work focused on evaluating the phenology of bird and invertebrate species associated with the numerous ponds of Izembek NWR. Parameters of interest included presence/absence and timing of bird, aquatic vegetation and aquatic invertebrate species, and measurement of pond characteristics including surface temperature, water depth measurements, pH and conductivity. Initial data collection occurred in summer of 2011 and 2012, and was completed in 2013.
A research project being conducted by Izembek NWR and Notre Dame University will improve the understanding of the ecological importance of salmon-derived nutrients on productivity in freshwater ecosystems on Izembek Refuge. This project will increase our understanding of whether salmon contribute a net enrichment or net disturbance effect on stream ecosystems. Structural and functional parameters being investigated include ammonium (NH4+), nitrate (NO3-), benthic and water column chlorophyll-a concentrations, stream gross primary production (GPP), and ecosystem respiration (ER). Data collection occurred during the summer of 2011, 2012, and 2013.
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Virtually the entire population of Pacific black brant (150,000 birds on average)feed and rest on Izembek Lagoon.