“Dramatic” response by flora & fauna to climate change

Birds, plants, and animals adapt to changing weather patterns, who knew?

USGS main page

News Release

Dramatic Links Found Between Climate Change, Elk, Plants, and Birds

Missoula, MT – Climate change in the form of reduced snowfall in mountains is causing powerful and cascading shifts in mountainous plant and bird communities through the increased ability of elk to stay at high elevations over winter and consume plants, according to a groundbreaking study in Nature Climate Change.

The U.S. Geological Survey and University of Montana study not only showed that the abundance of deciduous trees and their associated songbirds in mountainous Arizona have declined over the last 22 years as snowpack has declined, but it also experimentally demonstrated that declining snowfall indirectly affects plants and birds by enabling more winter browsing by elk. Increased winter browsing by elk results in trickle-down ecological effects such as lowering the quality of habitat for songbirds.

The authors, USGS Montana Cooperative Wildlife Research Unit scientist Thomas Martin and University of Montana scientist John Maron, mimicked the effects of more snow on limiting the ability of elk to browse on plants by excluding the animals from large, fenced areas. They compared bird and plant communities in these exclusion areas with nearby similar areas where elk had access, and found that, over the six years of the study, multi-decadal declines in plant and songbird populations were reversed in the areas where elk were prohibited from browsing.

“This study illustrates that profound impacts of climate change on ecosystems arise over a time span of but two decades through unexplored feedbacks,” explained USGS director Marcia McNutt. “The significance lies in the fact that humans and our economy are at the end of the same chain of cascading consequences.”

The study demonstrates  a classic ecological cascade, added Martin. For example, he said, from an elk’s perspective, less snow means an increased ability to freely browse on woody plants in winter in areas where they would not be inclined to forage in previous times due to high snowpack. Increased overwinter browsing led to a decline in deciduous trees, which reduced the number of birds that chose the habitat and increased predation on nests of those birds that did choose the habitat.

“This study demonstrates that the indirect effects of climate on plant communities may be just as important as the effects of climate-change-induced mismatches between migrating birds and food abundance because plants, including trees, provide the habitat birds need to survive,” Martin said.

The study, Climate impacts on bird and plant communities from altered animal-plant interactions, was published online on Jan. 8 in the journal Nature Climate Change.

This release can be found in the USGS Newsroom at: http://www.usgs.gov/newsroom/article.asp?ID=3069.

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109 Responses to “Dramatic” response by flora & fauna to climate change

  1. ScuzzaMan says:

    “The significance lies in the fact that humans and our economy are at the end of the same chain of cascading consequences.”

    Which end?

    Both?

    Or is there, in fact any sense in using the word “end” when their are multiple complex interacting feedback loops in operation?

  2. Alan S. Blue says:

    And yet, nothing similar could -possibly- demolish the entire paleo-dendroclimatology by significantly affecting which trees are solely “temperature stressed”.

  3. AleaJactaEst says:

    one word destroys their whole study – “mimicked ” i.e modelled

    where are the real data, observations and hypotheses?

  4. ShrNfr says:

    Didn’t we have another story on something like this recently?? Yeah, there is a good reason why the bears turned white and learned how to swim. The ones who couldn’t didn’t pass on their genes up north 100K years ago. Now if we could only select for intelligence instead of breeding stupidity in our universities.

  5. JinOH says:

    “Now if we could only select for intelligence instead of breeding stupidity in our universities.”
    Not seeing that as a possibility in the near future -way to much $$$ involved.

  6. R. de Haan says:

    Another GIGO, Garbage In Garbage Out report ripe for the shredder.
    Oh the waste of time and money…

  7. LeeHarvey says:

    Wait, wouldn’t decreased snow cover allow the elk to graze on grasses for a longer portion of the year, thus improving the overall health of the trees?

  8. BarryW says:

    And of course the governments restrictions on hunting couldn’t have affected the number of browsing elk which causes overgrazing.

  9. mitchel44 says:

    With a full cycle of the PDO being between 50 and 70 years, a full cycle of the AMO being between 55 and 70 years, and both having large effects on regional weather in regions as diverse as Asia, North America and Europe, I’m comfortable in saying that a 22 year study of the effects of “climate” on anything is neither rigorous or complete.

  10. Obie says:

    OMG! Either build more elk fences or eat more “elk burgers”; there will be more trees either way.

  11. Al Gored says:

    Read this last night. Funny.

    The real issue here is just the number of elk. But, as in Yellowstone, they have been lying about that for decades.

    Until the late 1960s there were annual elk culls in Yellowstone to control the population. Then the greenies decided that they shouldn’t do that in a national park and forced them to end that. To create cover for this move they INVENTED what is called the ‘Theory of Natural Regulation’ whereby elk were allegedly controlled by their food supply… so the horrendous overbrowsing and annual starvation of elk there was supposed to be ‘natural.’

    (This ‘Natural Regulation’ theory was actually just a science coated version of the ‘balance of nature’ myth.)

    They could not admit that predation controlled elk numbers because at that time they were spinning the fantasy that predators had no impacts – as they worked on improving wolf PR – and that would also justify the culls which they said were bad.

    Now that wolves have been re-introduced to Yellowstone, and have decimated the elk, moose, deer, and even coyote populations there, that ‘Natural Regulation’ lie has been proven false – though they will never admit it.

    They are still trying to blame the elk damage on climate change in Yellowstone, so this is no surprise.

    The whole Yellowstone elk story (mirrored in this story) is one of the best examples of what completely politicized junk the post-normal pseudoscience called Conservation Biology is… the same ‘science’ concluded that polar bears were doomed.

    And this university is fully stocked with the people behind the Yellowstone fraud.

    Anyhow, too many elk overbrowsing songbird habitat does reduce the number of songbirds, but that was not the point of this puff piece.

  12. Russ in Houston says:

    The reduced snow pack? Maybe there are more elk and thus some of them are having to use less desirable winter habitat.

    http://www.rmef.org/NewsandMedia/NewsReleases/2009/ElkPopulations.htm

  13. Scott Covert says:

    They “mimicked the effects of more snow on limiting the ability of elk to browse on plants by excluding the animals from large, fenced areas”

    Now a fence can mimic snow. They could have just tied the Elk to trees with long ropes and calculated the Elk radius. /Sarc.

    Real results of the study… No snow AND no elk = result, not climate change. I can help them with the elk problem. One at a time.

  14. paulevans18 says:

    Where is the study on the improvement of the environment where the Elk are no longer grazing because they are stayin at higher altitudes?

  15. I’m just wondering what their range was during the LIA.

  16. Theo Goodwin says:

    Alan S. Blue says:
    January 11, 2012 at 12:32 pm
    ‘And yet, nothing similar could -possibly- demolish the entire paleo-dendroclimatology by significantly affecting which trees are solely “temperature stressed”.’

    Spot on. If Mann hears of this study, these guys will be banned from all peer reviewed climate journals.

  17. Mike M says:

    There ain’t much snow pack in Costa Rica but there sure seems to be a LOT more animals and a LOT more kinds of animals living there. What part of ‘warmer is better’ is that these nitwits do not understand?

  18. Dave says:

    Defund and DE-GRANT these pathetic panic merchants disguised as scientist and let them do it on their own dime. You’ll find they actually will come up with something other than climate change mimicked models that Could, should, may, might, possibly and 20 other vagary’s these fine upstanding AGW alarmist inject into every report. There are plenty of jobs at McDonald’s for these climate flippers.

  19. They’re depicting elks as near-vermin and birds as victims.

    Just another case of four legs bad, two legs better.

  20. Gary says:

    Nothing new here on the theoretical side, but the results quantify the degree to which the ecosystem is being perturbed which is important for management (e.g., thinning the elk herd) reasons if you want to preserve rare plants or keep habitat for songbirds. These kinds of studies have been done for many decades. With better technology, however, it’s possible to get more refined results and presumably do better resource management.

  21. John West says:

    Does the glass always have to be half empty?
    “less snow means an increased ability to freely browse on woody plants in winter in areas where they would not be inclined to forage in previous times due to high snowpack”

    So, there’s less browsing where the elk would normally be extensively browsing, spreading the “browsing pressure” across a larger population of trees. Seems like an improvement in the larger perspective.

    IPCC AR5 bound.

  22. paddylol says:

    Of course these weather patterns have never occurred in the past. They are unique for the 20 years studied. Horsepuckey.

    The conditions in the 1930s had to be equal to or worse than those during the study’s period. Even so, the flora and fauna must have recovered between then and now so that the declines noted in the study could reoccur.

    it is well known that animal populations and plant lives are variable depending upon numerous circumstances. One of the most influential is the amount of food available. one of the missing aspects in this study is a baseline for comparative purposes.

  23. crosspatch says:

    There’s one major problem with the premise of this whole study:

    In North America (including Arizona), winter temperatures have not been getting warmer, they have been getting colder. Changes in snow cover are more likely due to changes in precipitation patterns than changes in temperature. The 2011 annual average temperature for the continental US was only 7/100 of a degree warmer than the average annual temperature of 1946.

    The problem with stories like these is that they are evidence of a biased caused by assuming climate is warming even when and where it is not. For all practical purposes, there has been no “climate change” in Arizona in the past 65 year if one is to talk about annual average temperatures and winters have been cooling.

  24. Pete in Cumbria UK says:

    Maybe these clowns have actually discovered something – Climate Change can be halted by building fences.
    Who’d have thunk it.

  25. Theo Goodwin says:

    Breaking News 2014:

    The remaining residents of St. Petersburg, Florida, most of them retirees, are reported to be experiencing strange psychological problems. When asked for an explanation, local residents mutter only “Tourists cannot afford to come here any longer.” Climate scientists from around the world have descended on St. Petersburg and similar cities and towns known as “former tourist destinations” or, more colorfully, “ghost towns.”

    The preliminary consensus among climate scientists is that nine years without hurricanes has caused a novel form of acute anxiety among local residents. Apparently, local residents suffer from an unshakable fear that St. Petersburg has lost the appeal of a tropical paradise because it has no hurricanes. According to Professor Neuter from Pin Stripe University, “The significance lies in the fact that humans and our economy are at the end of the same chain of cascading consequences.” (/sarc)

  26. JJ says:

    There is undoubtedly much left out of this press release, but what is presented here does not look good:

    “The authors, USGS Montana Cooperative Wildlife Research Unit scientist Thomas Martin and University of Montana scientist John Maron, mimicked the effects of more snow on limiting the ability of elk to browse on plants by excluding the animals from large, fenced areas.”

    That experiment would determine the effect of elk browsing on plants – which is a bit odd, given that the effect of elk browsing on plants is both obvious and well studied. Why was another repeat of this oft repeated experiment part of this study?

    On the other hand, left out of this press release is any discussion regarding the specifics of the experiment mentioned in this sentence:

    “but it also experimentally demonstrated that declining snowfall indirectly affects plants and birds by enabling more winter browsing by elk.”

    But no description of any such experiment is provided. When you have a description of an experiment that doesn’t match any of the study results, and a mention of an experiment that is not otherwise described, it leads one to believe that what you’re actually looking at is an experiment that doesn’t do what the authors claim it does, which in this case is to demonstrate the effect of snowpack on elk grazing.

    Also conspicuously missing is any discussion of the effect on elk grazing distribution of factors other than snowpack – such as the introduction of wolves. Wolves are known to disperse elk from their preferred low-snowpack wintering grounds. How much snowpack is required to have an effect on elk grazing equivalent to that produced by an elk-proof fence around an exclosure? How would that level be affected by other factors such as wolf predation? What area of the mountain west has experienced a snowpack decline such as to remove that barrier? What is the flora and fauna habitat of those areas?

    Those are the questions that would need to be answered in order to support the conclusions of the press release, yet none of those are mentioned in the press release. They probably arent in the paper itself, either…

  27. Latitude says:

    Like all things climate science, pick your starting point….
    “over the last 22 years as snowpack has declined”

    Flagstaff receives an average yearly snowfall of 108.8 inches.
    The heaviest annual snowfall on record since 1961 occurred in 1973. How many inches of snow accumulated? Answer: 210.0 inches
    The earliest snowfall on record in Flagstaff was on September 19, 1965. The latest snowfall on record was on June 8, 1907.

  28. Foxgoose says:

    “Now if we could only select for intelligence instead of breeding stupidity in our universities.”
    Not seeing that as a possibility in the near future -way to much $$$ involved.

    I don’t agree there – it was a long time ago but I seem to remember breeding as being a fairly inexpensive activity at uni.

  29. markus says:

    Voters and taxpayers associations should take the funding rationale, by government, for studies about shit we already know, to task.

    Does anthropogenic climate change need rewrite scientific reference texts with a eco-warrior spin?

  30. Scarface says:

    Scott Covert says:
    January 11, 2012 at 12:55 pm

    “I can help them with the elk problem. One at a time.” LOL

    On topic: since birds are the descendants of dinosaurs, they have survived at least 65 mln years.
    Do these people really think a little warming will harm or even end these persistent creatures?

    I keep on wondering how these so called progressives can react so conservative to any change.
    Conservatives have the name to be against change, but imho conservatives are open to it, as long as it goes naturally, which can not be said of progressives. They hate change. Unbelievable. Except for change they can believe in (, but which will not happen). Which proves my point btw.

  31. R. de Haan says:

    The USGS should concentrate on their core business, quakes, volcano’s and resources.
    We’re drowning in Green ideologists and screwed up institutions. We’re fed up and can’t bear more embarrassments.

  32. crosspatch says:

    Has there been any variation in the population of elk over this period? Going by experience on the East Coast when hunting of whitetail deer was curtailed and populations exploded, maybe we are seeing a similar population boom of elk in Arizona causing an overgrazing condition. Deer in the East so stripped the forests that they were starving to death and were resorting to stripping gardens and field crops to the point where farmers had been given permits to kill dozens of deer on their property.

    I do find some information such as this:

    Elk hunting opportunities expanded almost annually as biologists and ranchers feared that Arizona’s elk population might now “rise out of control.” These concerns culminated in 1953 when 6,288 permits were issued and 1,558 elk were taken-more than 1,000 of which were cows. Because of concerns about the “slaughter,” elk permits were greatly curtailed in 1954 and remained below 5,000 until 1965, when more than 6,000 permits were again authorized. By 1967, elk permit numbers were exceeding 7,000, and the annual harvest exceeded 1,500 elk. Once again, elk permits were gradually lowered; although new hunts, including archery hunts, were being initiated.

    By the mid-1980s, elk and elk permit numbers were again headed upward. This trend culminated in 1994, when nearly 11,000 elk were harvested-a number unimaginable just 20 years earlier. Since then, elk numbers and harvests have remained at a high level. This situation is expected to continue as wildlife managers and land managers continue to be concerned about habitat quality and elk-livestock competition.

    So it would appear that elk populations were increasing over the study period. This would have increased grazing pressure on those areas. I am not convinced this study shows anything at all about climate change and isn’t more reflective of changes in elk populations and the impact of those populations on habitat over the study period. Attributing this to “climate change” seems to be a bit of a leap of faith.

    Looking at what happened in Yellowstone when wolves were removed:

    Indeed, local industry and environmental groups battled for years over the Yellowstone and Idaho wolf reintroduction effort. The idea of wolf reintroduction was first brought to Congress in 1966 by biologists who were concerned with the critically high elk populations in Yellowstone. Officially, 1926 was the year the last wolves were killed within Yellowstone’s boundaries, and over the succeeding decades, populations of elk and other large prey animals had soared, and new growth vegetation suffered as a result. This is due to ecosystem instability when keystone predators are removed. With wolves being at the top of the food pyramid, their absence let the elk population boom out of control. Soon deciduous woody species such as upland aspen and riparian cottonwood crashed as a result of overgrazing. This affected habitat for other species as well. Moreover, coyotes tried to fill in the niche left by wolves, but were unable to control the large ungulate populations. Booming coyote numbers, furthermore, also had a negative effect on other species, particularly the red fox.

    I am not sure this piece really says anything about “climate change” at all except that “climate change” has become a handy “catchall” on which to blame any environmental change.

  33. R. de Haan says:

    Besides That I hate their new slogan.
    Science for a changing world.

    The slogan provides the USGS with more dynamic we expect from them as the world in geological terms is changing just as slowly s it always.

    I do understand that waiting for the next quake and the next volcanic eruption can be a boring business but wasting precious time and money writing a garbage article really is a bridge to far.
    Besides that I didn’t find a single piece of science in the entire article.

  34. commieBob says:

    Global warming is good for elk!

  35. pat says:

    never mind, these studies will be credible!

    12 Jan: Times of India: TERI studying climate change impact on state
    PUNE: The Energy and Resources Institute (TERI) has undertaken a study of the impact of climate change on the state in order to identify critical areas of concern and to come up with solutions to mitigate the loss.
    TERI director general R K Pachauri told reporters on Wednesday that the exercise, which began nearly two years ago, will be completed in a year’s time. “Maharashtra has a long coastline and vast tracks of agricultural land, many of which are rain fed. It is already witnessing a rise in sea level and it is time the state initiates some measures,” Pachauri said. He said TERI field teams are collecting data which is being analysed and processed using the government’s supercomputer in New Delhi…
    TERI is conducting similar studies in Rajasthan, Gujarat and West Bengal and will suggest solutions relevant to them, he said. “Issues such as climate change cannot be handled only at the central level. It needs the involvement of state governments as well as local communities, who are likely to bare the brunt in case of any extreme event.”
    Pachauri earlier addressed a meeting of real-estate developers and industrialists to apprise them about the various developments under the Green Rating for Integrated Habitat Assessment (GRIHA) initiatives which TERI has designed for the ministry of new and renewable energy, Government of India. He said all future structures of government and semi-government bodies will have to adhere to the GRIHA standards and there is a move to make these standards mandatory for all constructions in municipal areas. He said 160 construction projects comprising 7.5 million sq ft of area are registered under the GRIHA initiative, 20 of them being from Pune. “TERI teams are helping these projects in complying with the expected standards and are also monitoring their progress.”…

    http://timesofindia.indiatimes.com/city/pune/TERI-studying-climate-change-impact-on-state/articleshow/11454041.cms

  36. Jesse says:

    Elks are destroying the habitats of other creatures. Perhaps we should rid the earth of elks?

  37. jack morrow says:

    I guess now that this is out they will introduce more wolves to cut back on the elk herds. What a bunch of phooey!

  38. pat says:

    even more credible!

    11 Jan: The Himalayan: Climate change in Himalayas: Appa’s quest
    MISSION EXPLORE NEPAL
    The 21-time Everest Summiter who lives in Utah, USA with his family,will spend four months trekking the hills of the country from January 15 from Ghunsha of Taplejung in Darchula.
    “In 2009, when we were in Copenhagen for the climate change meeting where Nepal organised a rally of Everest climbers urging to save the Himalayas, we planned to travel from east to west of Nepal through the Great Himalayan trail and it took two years to make that happen,” said Dawa Steven Sherpa — two-time Everest Summiter who is accompanying Appa.
    Melting of the Himalayas at faster rate is a fact and scientists have said that due to global warming the rate of melting would further increase the threat to billions of people residing near and downstream…
    Prashant Singh, CEO of Himalayan Climate Initiative, is one of the designers of Explore Nepal concept and has been assisting the team. “Tourism is taken as enemy of climate as people emit carbon dioxide in a bid to make their travel luxurious, but in Nepal we don’t use vehicles as most of the routes are for trekking only, our electricity consumption is very low as most parts of the country still do not have electricity. So we can promote this east-west trail as environment friendly tourism,” said Singh…

    http://www.thehimalayantimes.com/fullNews.php?headline=Climate+change+in+Himalayas%3A+Appa's+quest&NewsID=316271

  39. Sean Peake says:

    I would like to read the lame-o paper to see if it addresses a few points. First, Arizona elk having been going at it like bunnies since they were re-introduced into Arizona (the original elk population was extirpated around 1900) from Yellowstone starting in 1919 and off and on into the ’20s. With this increasing population comes the inevitable pressure on grazing lands, and I have seen no mention as to what the original population estimate was and whether or not present levels exceed it.
    Second, Arizona’s elk populations are influenced by ENSO events (rangeview.arizona.edu/presentations/infomart_6-19-01.pdf), so it would be interesting to see when the study period is to see what phase ENSO was in (greener during El Nino, browner during La Nina).
    Third, Arizona, and in particular its prime elk grazing lands, have had several large wildfires over the past few years, something like >800 sq. miles. While these haven’t directly affected elk mortality rates, it will have caused a shift in grazing territory. Plus, these fires weren’t a boon to the birdies either. The upside is that about two years after a major burn, the grazing lands return, in better, more productive condition that before the fire, and the elk will become like coke-fueled clubbers at Studio 54 in the ’70s, humping anything that moves in their new Eden. (Oh, the debauchery!) There would, however, be a significant change to the species of birds found in the area since the first and second generation of succession vegetation would be different than the flora that existed before the fire. It will take years for those original populations to return.
    So lots of factors in play, but considering how twisted the authors’ logic is, I have a feeling some of these points were overlooked.

  40. pat says:

    no doubt about where this one is headed:

    11 Jan: Economic Times, India: Climate change: India’s informal economy neglected
    Experts from the University of Oxford and Indian researchers are looking into the impact of climate change policies on India’s informal economy, and to diagnose ways of reducing CO2 emissions and improving jobs…
    Project leader Barbara Harriss-White, Professor of Development Studies and member of the Contemporary South Asian Studies Programme at the University of Oxford, said: “Informal economies have been largely ignored in the debates about climate change.”
    “We hope to develop new models that can be used to investigate the environmental effects of production and distribution systems that operate in the informal economy outside the reach of state regulation…

    http://economictimes.indiatimes.com/news/politics/nation/climate-change-indias-informal-economy-neglected/articleshow/11450316.cms

  41. TimC says:

    What happened to the elk displaced from the exclusion zones? There is no reference (that I can see outside a paywall) to them having died, so presumably they moved elsewhere and just carried on eating, defecating and breeding as normal. So, while “declines in plant and songbird populations were reversed in the areas where elk were prohibited from browsing” this is only half the story – the full story is the combined effect both on the exclusion zones and the alternative areas where the elk moved. Being in the UK I’ll bet a full 1 euro that the total effect was negligible!

    Or perhaps we will shortly get news more that elk culls have dramatic effects on plant and songbird populations …

  42. Joseph Murphy says:

    LeeHarvey says:
    January 11, 2012 at 12:51 pm

    Quite possibly. There is some evidence that Elk seek out grasses when available. Although, it does not make up the largest portion of their diet.

    http://aces.nmsu.edu/pubs/_ritf/report52.pdf

  43. Sean Peake says:

    @Jesse: rid the earth of elks

    No, let’s start with the Rotarians and move up ;-)

  44. Reg Nelson says:

    I withholding judgement on this one until The Physicist runs his Elk per acre sub-routine (safe bet — it’s in the billions).

  45. Scott Covert says:

    Also another thing to consider is long fences give preditors something to crown prey against when hunting them in packs. They may have accidentally created a wolf feeding device.

    Does this fence exclude other animals such as hares, deer, etc…? Small burrowing animals probably penetrate the fence but if there is plenty of food outside the fence, they might exist in fewer numbers inside the exclusion area. All factors. If rabbits use the exclusion area as protection from dogs and cats, rabbit poop is great fertilizer and might be at higher concentrations inside the exclusion area.

    Great snow simulator, as real as GCMs.

  46. SteveSadlov says:

    Declining snowfall … due to what exactly?

    Warming? … or … drought?

  47. Latitude says:

    Montana snowpack keeps pace above average
    March 07, 2011
    editor@montanaliving.com

    BOZEMAN, MT – Montana’s mountain snowpack remains above average for the fourth consecutive month, according to the Natural Resources Conservation Service.

    Snowpack in all areas is above last year at this time. February mountain precipitation was near average and was the fourth month in a row with average to above average accumulated precipitation. February mountain precipitation west of the Continental Divide was 106 percent of average and east of the Divide was 105 percent of average.

    http://www.montanaliving.com/Montana-Matters/Montana-snowpack-keeps-pace-above-average-796

  48. Latitude says:

    Montana snowpack still at record levels
    Wednesday, June 1, 2011 12:00 am

    The snowpack all across Montana remains at record levels.

    http://helenair.com/article_a0774374-8c12-11e0-b3a7-001cc4c002e0.html

    etc etc etc…..you get the drift

  49. Andrew says:

    So what I was saying about Mount Adams is this… whoops wrong thread…NOT

    After Mt St Helens blew up and completely wiped out huge elk herds, thousands of…well it kinda did this:

    “The magma inside of St. Helens burst forth into a large-scale pyroclastic flow that flattened vegetation and buildings over 230 square miles (600 km2). More than 1.5 million metric tons of sulfur dioxide were released into the atmosphere.[25] On the Volcanic Explosivity Index scale, the eruption was rated a five (a Plinian eruption).

    Mount St. Helens erupted on May 18, 1980, at 08:32 Pacific Daylight Time
    The collapse of the northern flank of St. Helens mixed with ice, snow, and water to create lahars (volcanic mudflows). The lahars flowed many miles down the Toutle and Cowlitz Rivers, destroying bridges and lumber camps. A total of 3,900,000 cubic yards (3,000,000 m3) of material was transported 17 miles (27 km) south into the Columbia River by the mudflows.[26]
    For more than nine hours, a vigorous plume of ash erupted, eventually reaching 12 to 16 miles (20 to 27 km) above sea level.[27] The plume moved eastward at an average speed of 60 miles per hour (100 km/h) with ash reaching Idaho by noon. Ashes from the eruption were found collecting on top of cars and roofs next morning, as far as the city of Edmonton in Alberta, Canada.”

    How them elk doing now? Somebody should really pay attention to history or something like that…or maybe it might do it again or something…

    Oh, and according to PBS the 1980 “eruption initially took the shape of a giant mushroom cloud, signifying a blast 400 times more powerful than the atomic bomb that leveled Hiroshima.”…but that is for another thread too…like how many people die in disasters or something.

    Me thinks Mann is bad a predicting the future…oops typo?

    Mike had his Nature Trick…does this count as a Hat Trick?

  50. Hoser says:

    Turn it around: Let’s say there was more snow in AZ. Wouldn’t the story line be something like:
    The elk population is decreasing due to restricted foraging opportunities as winter snowpack increases. The songbird population is growing; however, that is small consolation to the dwindling population of the majestic elk.

    The point is, these characters want us to believe change is bad. Why? Change is an inherent attribute of living systems. There are decades old mathematical models describing the cyclic changes in predator and prey populations. Change is life. Stasis is for dead things like the Moon and Mars.

    The Apollo missions were the first interesting events on the Moon in over 3 billion years (OK, I’ll give you Tycho crater and a few others). I’ve read about demands to prevent alteration of the Moon or Mars. These people want nothing to change ever. Change is what gave them the chance to live in the first place. Rule by lawyers may be driving this attotude. Is lack of change actually safer? I would say no. This conflict of perception with reality isn’t helped by the deplorable state of science education and nearly complete lack of science knowledge among elected leaders.

  51. P. Hager says:

    Of course there is a simple inexpensive solution for this: Reintroduce Wolves.

    http://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S0378112703001543

    http://www.yellowstonepark.com/2011/06/yellowstone-national-park-wolf-reintroduction-is-changing-the-face-of-the-greater-yellowstone-ecosystem/

    Apparently wolves eat elk and affect elk breeding. Since the elk population is reduced, the elk eat less. By eating less, more plants and, trees grow to maturity. The wolves have also led to a rebound in beaver population that rely on the increase in fauna.

    On the other hand, you could say it isn’t global warning, it is the removal of predators from the ecosystem that is causing the problem.

  52. Meanwhile, there are record snowfalls and avalanches in the European Alps this winter.
    Why don’t we hear much about that?

  53. Al Gored says:

    crosspatch says:
    January 11, 2012 at 1:52 pm

    “Officially, 1926 was the year the last wolves were killed within Yellowstone’s boundaries, and over the succeeding decades, populations of elk and other large prey animals had soared, and new growth vegetation suffered as a result.”

    That is the convenient green spin. The huge elephant in this room is one the greenies have been deliberately avoiding or just plain lying about for decades.

    ALL early historical records of the Yellowstone area found elk rare and wolves even rarer.

    The apex predator of the ‘natural ecosystem’ were Native hunters, who were removed from the ecological equation.

    But they cannot deal with this reality because it upsets the myth of the ‘pristine wilderness’ as the myth of the ‘balance of nature.’

    The elk overpopulation problem in Yellowstone was already evident by 1900 which was why they started shipping elk out of there to places where they were extirpated – which was almost everywhere in their original range.

  54. David Ball says:

    We hire a PR group to smear and discredit the elk so no one will touch them on the public speaking circuit. Then, once the elk experience financial hardship, we sue them into oblivion, …..

  55. George E. Smith; says:

    dang, I just knew that was going to happen again. 50,000 years ago, humans were forced to leave the garden of eden flowing with milk and honey (and crocodiles and tsetse flies), and go up in the snow to live on moss and reindeer fur, until they could finally emigrate to the United States, and Mexico. But they didn’t really even know they were going to the USA, because they just followed the birds and the bees, and everything else that just wandered across the border into the USof A.
    If they had had a GPS system in those days, they would have figured out they were moving; and then they would have built some big concrete cities, and then sat around and whined about the weather. Now how do you suppose a flowering plant that lives for a year, knows anything at all about climate, so it knows when to get up and leave ?

  56. timg56 says:

    R. de Haan ,

    USGS also does water quality. My experience has been that USGS is one of the finest collection of scientists employed by the federal government.

  57. timg56 says:

    RE Times of India article:

    ““Issues such as climate change cannot be handled only at the central level. It needs the involvement of state governments as well as local communities, ”

    Or in other words – we know India’s federal government is unlikely to support costly “climate change” policies, so we are going to see if we have more success convincing local government of the need.

  58. Luther Wu says:

    Can’t believe no one has mentioned it yet… what a short time ago it was, the term ‘Global Warming’ was abandoned in favor of ‘Climate Change’ because of the heavier winter snowfalls. The climate collaborators tried to rationalize the heavy snows by saying, “warmer air holds more moisture which means it snows a lot more”… shocking.

  59. Al Gored says:

    To follow up on my previous comment…

    The usual stock response to my comment about the historical record is ‘But what about Lewis and Clark’?

    No surprise as the record of that expedition is the icon of the imaginary West. It also confirms the impact of Native hunters.

    The only areas where they saw any abundance of wildlife was in the vacant ‘no man’s lands’ between hostile Native nations. And the upper Missouri-lower Yellowstone where they happened to pass through twice, was the largest such area in the historical West.

    In contrast, they saw almost nothing in areas occupied by Native nations… because they were hunted so hard. The only exception to this rule – and only a relative exception at that – were bison, because the big herds kept moving and ‘migrated’ long distances. Even so, the numbers of historic bison suggested, most famously and falsely 60 million, are ridiculous and laughable and, not surprisingly, have zero historical or ecological basis.

  60. Andrew says:

    oh…now something maybe actually directed at this thread:

    Elk graze…source…me…I have watched them many times…and sometimes I was with another friend…so my research has been peer reviewed…Wow this science stuff is easy…even a “Caveman could do it”

    Wolves graze too, ‘cept its called hunting and or scavenger(ing). We all know that Elton John sang that Circle of Life song…well Walt Disney was not the first to come up with the concept. But don’t take a public opinion poll and ask people what they think the answer is…or do and maybe you could host your own late night TV show, like Letterman or Carson or that Leno guy…

    So if some animal likes to kill you and eat you…you just might change the way you live your life, I know I would. Elk eventually figure it out too…sometimes, however it takes a few generations.

    How can anything even remotely scientific…related to GLOBAL CLIMATE CHANGE be determined when you have failed to account for wolves were extirpated from Yellowstone in 1926. Reintroduced in 1995. Elk really don’t like wolves. Wolves really like elk. The elk chase the wolves all around the park…and sometimes they even leave the park…this ain’t ‘New York City’…our parks out west are a little bit bigger than the central one.

    Any study that draws any conclusion about GLOBAL CLIMATE CHANGE, based on a 6 year study of elk…in an area that was void of their primary predator for multiple generations…but then expose that particular elk herd new ‘unknown’ predator during the study…

    Wait…go ask every single elk hunting guide in Montana and Wyoming…they are experts in elk behavior right? If they were not experts they would not be hunting guides…cause I doubt they got any stimulus bail out money like General Motors…

    Hey…I wonder if I could get paid by the USGS if I submitted a Road Runner cartoon and told them it was a study on flora and fauna habits…

  61. View from the Solent says:

    Obviously, their model is nonsense. I see no mention of the spherical elk*.

    * https://secure.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/en/wiki/Spherical_cow

  62. Stephen Singer says:

    Attn: AleaJactaEst, January 11, 2012 at 12:39 pm

    They did not ‘model’ anything. They fenced off an area to keep out the Elk as though there was high snow. Then OBSERVED the results on the song birds ability to live in the protected area amongst the unprotected areas. This is called real science not modeling.

  63. mkelly says:

    Sean Peake says:

    January 11, 2012 at 2:38 pm

    Concur.

  64. Brian H says:

    Excerpts from the second link given by P. Hagar, above:

    To answer that, you have to go back to the 1930s, when the wolf was killed off in Yellowstone. Even though Yellowstone elk were still preyed upon by black and grizzly bears, cougars and, to a lesser extent, coyotes, the absence of wolves took a huge amount of predatory pressure off the elk, said Smith. As a result, elk populations did very well-perhaps too well. Two things happened: the elk pushed the limits of Yellowstone’s carrying capacity, and they didn’t move around much in the winter-browsing heavily on young willow, aspen and cottonwood plants. That was tough for beaver, who need willows to survive in winter.

    Healthier willow stands
    This created a counterintuitive situation. Back in 1968, said Smith, when the elk population was about a third what it is today, the willow stands along streams were in bad shape. Today, with three times as many elk, willow stands are robust. Why? Because the predatory pressure from wolves keeps elk on the move, so they don’t have time to intensely browse the willow.

    Indeed, a research project headed by the U.S. Geological Survey in Ft. Collins found that the combination of intense elk browsing on willows and simulated beaver cuttings produced stunted willow stands. Conversely, simulated beaver cutting without elk browsing produced verdant, healthy stands of willow. In the three-year experiment, willow stem biomass was 10 times greater on unbrowsed plants than on browsed plants. Unbrowsed plants recovered 84 percent of their pre-cut biomass after only two growing seasons, whereas browsed plants recovered only 6 percent.

    With elk on the move during the winter, willow stands recovered from intense browsing, and beaver rediscovered an abundant food source that hadn’t been there earlier.

    As the beavers spread and built new dams and ponds, the cascade effect continued, said Smith. Beaver dams have multiple effects on stream hydrology. They even out the seasonal pulses of runoff; store water for recharging the water table; and provide cold, shaded water for fish, while the now robust willow stands provide habitat for songbirds.

    “What we’re finding is that ecosystems are incredibly complex,” he said. In addition to wolves changing the feeding habits of elk, the rebound of the beaver in Yellowstone may also have been affected by the 1988 Yellowstone fires, the ongoing drought, warmer and drier winters and other factors yet to be discovered, Smith said.

    Research bonanza
    Biologists are often faced with the grim task of documenting the cascade effects of what happens when a species is removed from an ecosystem, by local extirpation or even extinction. In Yellowstone, biologists have the rare, almost unique, opportunity to document what happens when an ecosystem becomes whole again, what happens when a key species is added back into the ecosystem equation.

    “In the entire scientific literature, there are only five or six comparable circumstances,” Smith said. “What we’re seeing now is a feeding frenzy of scientific research.”

    __________

    Elk move into heavy timber when wolves are around, Creel added, but return to the grassy, open meadows when wolves go away. Creel and other researchers are still working out what that means in terms of the elk’s diet and whether there are costs associated with this behavior.

    Rather surprisingly, elk herd size breaks up into smaller units when wolves are around, said Creel, who had expected herd size to get bigger as a defense mechanism. “I think they’re trying to avoid encounters with wolves,” he said, by being more vigilant, moving into the timber and gathering in smaller herd units.

    Food distributors
    Researchers have also determined that wolves, in the recent absence of hard winters, are now the primary reason for elk mortality. Before wolf reintroduction, deep snows were the main determinant of whether an elk was going to die.

    Researchers from the University of California at Berkeley determined that the combination of less snow and more wolves has benefited scavengers both big and small, from ravens to grizzly bears.

    Instead of a boom and bust cycle of elk carrion availability-as existed before wolves and when winters were harder-there’s now a more equitable distribution of carrion throughout winter and early spring, said Chris Wilmers in the on-line journal Public Library of Science Biology. He added that scavengers that once relied on winter-killed elk for food now depend on wolf-killed elk. That benefits ravens, eagles, magpies, coyotes and bears (grizzly and black), especially as the bears emerge hungry from hibernation.

    “I call it food for the masses,” said Ed Bangs, wolf recovery coordinator for the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service. He said he was genuinely surprised by the vast web of life that is linked to wolf kills. “Beetles, wolverine, lynx and more,” he said. “It turns out that the Indian legends of ravens following wolves are true-they do follow them because wolves mean food.”

    Wolves are great!

  65. Brian H says:

    @Andrew;
    Implausible typo above: “The elk chase the wolves all around the park ”
    Bigger Bambis on Rampage. Wolves Flee For Their Lives!

    Or maybe not.
    ;)

  66. Andrew says:

    @Al Gored

    “The elk overpopulation problem in Yellowstone was already evident by 1900 which was why they started shipping elk out of there to places where they were extirpated – which was almost everywhere in their original range.”

    Please do some research and get back to us on the native flora and fauna of Central Park, The Meadowlands, maybe Garden in Boston while you are at it…and compare it to the current flora and fauna…

    I will get a bunch of…ok…we can’t deal with invasive species anymore due to EPA regulations…so no talk of culling the herd would be appropriate…

  67. nc says:

    Lets see the domestic cat destroys about one billion birds and year in the US alone. Now if they apply for a grant to study if cats spend more time outdoors because of C02 warming the world, they will be in the money again.

  68. Peak Warming Man says:

    I think this site is becoming populated with kneejerk reactionaries akin to the nuclear nutters who go postal at the mention of nuclear power.
    The fact is that this piece seems quite reasonable and well researched and dosent deserve the mouth frothing piloring that it has received here by people who seem to be blinded by idealogy to any scientific research that doesn’t support their world view, there is no genuine objective scientific discussion on this site anymore, I’m becoming very disillusioned.

  69. Andrew says:

    This is the Last Resort! Save the Eagles…they are a rare indicator species…like the Spotted Owls…and the Peregrine Falcons…They will never make it “In The City”…but then again what do I know…I am just a ordinary average guy that prefers Meadows and a Rocky Mountain Way to some corporate Wall Street High Rise…but I have seen a Window on the World from atop one…years ago.

    “She heard about a place people were smilin’
    They spoke about the red man’s way,
    and how they loved the land ”

    “Then the chilly winds blew down
    Across the desert
    through the canyons of the coast, to
    the Malibu
    Where the pretty people play,
    hungry for power
    to light their neon way
    and give them things to do ”

    “They even brought a neon sign: “Jesus is coming”
    Brought the white man’s burden down
    Brought the white man’s reign

    Who will provide the grand design?
    What is yours and what is mine?
    ‘Cause there is no more new frontier
    We have got to make it here

    We satisfy our endless needs and
    justify our bloody deeds,
    in the name of destiny and the name of God”

    Watch the video and read the lyrics.

    (I cut and pasted from YouTube…I wonder if I did it right…)

  70. Ian says:

    Too many comments on this post are derisively dismissive which does little for the credibility of WUWT in the wider on line community. It is fair to say that there the results may reflect an increase in the number of elks if the authors haven’t commented on this but many of the other comments are risible.

  71. TomRude says:

    How about Rutgers University trend for northern hemisphere snow coverage in winter? IT IS UP!

  72. davidmhoffer says:

    Wow, is the quality of trolls ever dropping!

    First we have:

    Peak Warming Man says:
    January 11, 2012 at 4:45 pm
    I think this site is becoming populated with kneejerk reactionaries akin to the nuclear nutters who go postal at the mention of nuclear power.
    The fact is that this piece seems quite reasonable and well researched and dosent deserve the mouth frothing piloring that it has received here by people who seem to be blinded by idealogy to any scientific research that doesn’t support their world view, there is no genuine objective scientific discussion on this site anymore, I’m becoming very disillusioned.
    >>>>>>>>>>>

    Followed by:

    Ian says:
    January 11, 2012 at 4:47 pm
    Too many comments on this post are derisively dismissive which does little for the credibility of WUWT in the wider on line community. It is fair to say that there the results may reflect an increase in the number of elks if the authors haven’t commented on this but many of the other comments are risible.
    >>>>>>>>>>>

    Say what? You guys all read the same “how to win an argument” book or something? Aw, you’re all disolutioned and all, the comments are just mean, Mean I say! Risable even!

    OK Ian and Peak Warming Man, how about you defend your position? All you’ve done is throw out a drive by comment to the effect that the criticism being expressed is unfair. Mean. Risable even! Could you perhaps quote the specific comments that you feel are representative of your complaint and explain why each of them is, in your opinion, problematic?

    While you are doing that, I’m going to trot down to my favourite park and put fences around certain sections and hang signs on them that say “no hot dog vendors beyond this point”. I’m then going to study the litter in the area to see if there is any change in distribution. If the areas within the fences show decreased littering from discarded hot dog wrappers, ketchup and mustard packs and other hot dog related items, I shall produce a study showing this as evidence that global warming could extend the range of hot dog vendors which in turn would extend the range of pigeons and other members of the flying rat species.

  73. P. Hager says:

    Al Gored,
    Your comments about native hunters certainly captures another climate impactor. Before they had horses, the hunters would go upwind of a bison heard and wait. Once in place a fire was set down wind of the herd. In response to the fire the bison would run upwind and the hunters would take what they needed.
    20 years ago, an article in the Nature Conservancy magazine had an article from a paleo-botanist who stated the “great plains” were the “great forest” before the native hunters arrived.

  74. George E. Smith; says:

    “”””” Ian says:

    January 11, 2012 at 4:47 pm

    Too many comments on this post are derisively dismissive which does little for the credibility of WUWT in the wider on line community. It is fair to say that there the results may reflect an increase in the number of elks if the authors haven’t commented on this but many of the other comments are risible. “””””

    Not to mention that too many comments are derisive about other’s comments.

    Now I just noticed that the very first word in the Press Release was “Dramatic”, yet nothing in the early part of the account, indicated anything at all “dramatic”.
    In fact it all seemed very ordinary, and about what one would expect mother nature to do, when weather patterns shift. That after all is what survival is about.

    Now the details of the study may in fact be quite interesting; but who is going to rush to read it, when the ordinary is presented as “Dramatic”.
    Hence MY derisive but NOT dismissive response. And I don’t have the time to look up the word “risible”; if I haven’t needed to use that word in all these years, I am likely to survive without it; and I’m somewhat adaptable, so if it becomes imperitive to be able to use the word “risible”, I can probably make some adjustment.

  75. Andrew says:

    @Brian H

    “Brian H says:
    January 11, 2012 at 4:21 pm
    @Andrew;
    Implausible typo above: “The elk chase the wolves all around the park ”
    Bigger Bambis on Rampage. Wolves Flee For Their Lives!

    Or maybe not.
    ;)”

    Is it anymore implausible than the Grimm tale you tell about the unfortunate night club disaster…no doubt poor diet from eating genetically modified food must have played a roll…

    “Bigger Bambis on Rampage. Wolves Flee For Their Lives!”

    But actually I failed to account for a half day at school, and I had 3 future taxpayers running around demanding my time…so proof reading was minimal. But not all typo’s are implausible, except when they are double negatives…

    …and I didn’t call them elks…and trust me the ones on the Olympic Peninsula are big!

  76. Justthinkin says:

    Foxgoose says:

    January 11, 2012 at 1:36 pm

    “Now if we could only select for intelligence instead of breeding stupidity in our universities.”
    Not seeing that as a possibility in the near future -way to much $$$ involved.

    I don’t agree there – it was a long time ago but I seem to remember breeding as being a fairly inexpensive activity at uni.
    ____________________________________________________________________

    True Foxgoose…but remember we are talking inbreeding here,as in stupid breeding with stupid.

    And as others have pointed out,remove the alpha predator,and the prey population explodes! Just what are they teaching in the “sciences” at school/”higher instituions of learning” these days?? Or are they just indoctrinating?

  77. Tilo Reber says:

    A. If they are not eating more trees at higher altitudes, then they are eating more trees a lower
    altitiudes.

    B. Elk and deer have had an insufficient number of predators for a long time. But wolves are expanding their terrain. They have returned to Montana, Wyoming, Utah, Colorado, Idaho and Minnesota. Mexican wolves are being reintroduced to Arizona and New Mexico. Wolves kill lots of elk. Their reintroduction will have a far more dramatic effect than climate.

  78. BarryW says:

    P. Hager,

    I also remember having read that they would use the fire to stampede bison over a cliff enmass taking what they wanted or could carry and leaving the majority to rot. So much for native conservationists.

  79. Katherine says:

    In their model, they just fenced off an area to serve as a control, but wouldn’t that mean the flora was still exposed to sunlight and able to green and grow and flourish? If they wanted to accurately “model” high snow, they should have taken a snowmaker and kept the fenced-off control area blanketed with snow. Then they can accurately compare the effects on vegetation of a reduced snow cover and elk grazing vs the effects of their assumed normal snow cover.

  80. Jay Davis says:

    Not climate change, simply a classic case of overpopulation. Increase the number of elk tags, decrease the cost of those tags and voila, elk overpopulation taken care of. Where do I apply for my grant money from USGS?

  81. Al Gored says:

    Andrew says:
    January 11, 2012 at 4:22 pm

    “@Al Gored

    Please do some research and get back to us on the native flora and fauna of Central Park, The Meadowlands, maybe Garden in Boston while you are at it…and compare it to the current flora and fauna…

    I will get a bunch of…ok…we can’t deal with invasive species anymore due to EPA regulations…so no talk of culling the herd would be appropriate…”

    Sorry Andrew, but your question is so vague that I don’t get it. Please be more clear and I would be happy to address it.

  82. Russ in Houston says:

    Elk Smelk… I’m waiting for the peer reviewed published paper that show the expansion in the ranges of wild hogs in the south is caused by climate change.

  83. Ockham says:

    Stephen Singer says:
    January 11, 2012 at 4:00 pm
    “Attn: AleaJactaEst, January 11, 2012 at 12:39 pm
    They did not ‘model’ anything. They fenced off an area to keep out the Elk as though there was high snow. Then OBSERVED the results on the song birds ability to live in the protected area amongst the unprotected areas. This is called real science not modeling.”

    I live in the Yellowstone region and am familiar with elk exclosures in and around YNP. If the exclosures in this study are anything like the ones I know, they never open them. They are permanent exclosures. Over time, what eventually results inside them is growth atypical of the surrounding region when subjected to normal grazing/browsing pressure. Opening these fenced areas during summer months would result in more realistic conditions. Elk would zero in the untouched areas and quickly reduce the quantity and composition to levels more realistic of the surrounding area. The upshot being that the exclusion areas would be significantly less attractive to song birds and other animals than they are under 365 day/6 year exclusion. If the study did not allow summer grazing, then the methodology is flawed IMO and the results artificially exaggerated. This is not ‘real science’ … it is real bad science.

  84. DirkH says:

    I’d like to see a classical ecological cascade where the collapse of industrial growth leads to a shortage of funding, leading to a collapse in the number of ecology postdocs and the subsequent closure of entire universities. We’re overdue already; all the money has already been taken by wind and solar energy proponents, why don’t we shut them down already.

  85. Al Gored says:

    Brian H says:
    January 11, 2012 at 4:17 pm

    “Excerpts from the second link given by P. Hagar, above”

    That article is the spun green version, designed to maximize the positive PR for wolves and the people who reintroduced them.

    This part is a fine example of what nonsense it is:

    “Researchers from the University of California at Berkeley determined that the combination of less snow and more wolves has benefited scavengers both big and small, from ravens to grizzly bears.

    Instead of a boom and bust cycle of elk carrion availability-as existed before wolves and when winters were harder-there’s now a more equitable distribution of carrion throughout winter and early spring…”

    First, this is relatively true for ravens – although the mass starvation die-offs of elk of the past produced some incredible abundances of spring food for ravens when it is more vital; they are early nesters.

    But the bear thing is entirely bogus. These wolves COMPETE with bears for food. Large wolf packs easily displace any grizzly bear and even two wolves can displace females with cubs. Moreover, wolves KILL bear cubs, including grizzly bear cubs.

    Rather than me posting links, just google ‘wolf and grizzly bear competition in Yellowstone.’

    Similarly, this states that they also ‘benefit’ coyotes. I guess that explains why the coyote population has been decimated since the wolves were reintroduced. They kill coyotes.

    Of course, these researchers were from Berkely, man.

    Then there’s Ed Bangs. For those familiar with this whole story, Bangs is well known, and not for his ‘science.’ For his fairy tales and spin. So this is to be expected:

    “I call it food for the masses,” said Ed Bangs, wolf recovery coordinator for the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service. He said he was genuinely surprised by the vast web of life that is linked to wolf kills. “Beetles, wolverine, lynx and more,” he said. “It turns out that the Indian legends of ravens following wolves are true-they do follow them because wolves mean food.”

    Actually all that was very well known long before this reintroduction happened, and many of these researchers personally knew this because they were very familiar with what happened when wolves returned to Banff National Park in Alberta in the early 1980s. Including the ‘Indian legends of ravens following wolves’ which was observed and documented there, and observed and documented 100 or more years earlier on the plains.

    But pretending to be discovering things and wrapping them in ‘Indian legends’ sounds better.

    The whole wolf introduction story is a huge and controversial one but, like the other half of the AGW debate, it was barely touched by the media.

  86. Al Gored says:

    Here’s a nice clear explanation of the Yellowstone elk and vegetation (and more) story:

    http://www.gardnerfiles.com/Yellowstones%20Natural%20Regulations%20Policy%2021-a.pdf

    Google the author for more.

  87. JPeden says:

    Brian H says:
    January 11, 2012 at 4:17 pm

    Excerpts from the second link given by P. Hagar, above….[showing only that a narrative about the greatness of Wolves is being developed and ignoring the fact that about 22,000 Elk have been winter-fed by State run feeding stations in the Yellowstone area but now won't be: http://www.greateryellowstone.org/issues/wildlife/Feature.php?id=41 ]….

    “Research bonanza
    Biologists are often faced with the grim task of documenting the cascade effects of what happens when a species [Wolf] is removed from an ecosystem [which they obviously think they already know], by local extirpation or even extinction. In Yellowstone, biologists have the rare, almost unique, opportunity to document what happens when an ecosystem becomes whole again, what happens when a key species is added back into the ecosystem equation.”

    Wolves are great!

    “Research Bonanza” is the operative term.

    Likewise, here locally Wolves have been reintroduced, perhaps even illegally according to a local Packer I know, to “balance” Nature and have spread rather “rapidly” to N.E. Oregon from Idaho…and, surprise, “can affect the landscape!” according to a recent self-serving report in the local paper.

    In other words, the contracting experts admit openly that because funding for the idea of Wolves changing the “landscape” is difficult to obtain, locals are now urged to take pictures of the landscape they are familiar with to see if it changes, since the Wolves have only recently arrived – and are increasingly knocking off a significant number of Cattle in the “landscape” – just one or two dead cows might be significant to a small-scale, < 50 head, rancher which 40% of all cattle come from, according to a radio Ag Report I happened to hear.

    Nevertheless, any landscape whatsoever that "improves" over time around here, according to taste, will now be attributed to the re-entry of Wolves! Then the fund seeking experts can get more funding to, er, prove it.

    And to boot, at last report 20 years after the local "Wild and Scenic River" onslaught which has managed to build up the Wild and Scenic River corridor's fuel load here to very dangerous levels, people are still getting funded to see if the tiny "threatened" Botrychium, Moonwort Fern, does better around places where Horses tread, or not.

    Well, they do seem to grow quite well right beside the dusty road next to my driveway and about 10 yd. away from the still working corral where the property’s previous Pack Station was being operated for at least 40 years. But that particular cascade resulting in the Botrychium’s own landscape feature probably wouldn’t please too many of the postmodern Environmentalists, especially because there’s also heap plenty Elk and Deer around, too, “but not yet enough Wolves.”

  88. Jeff Alberts says:

    Mods, why are we approving OT posts about India, and Himalayan glaciers?

    [Because we did. 8<) Robt]

    [REP Says.... Because of the volume, moderators often dom't have the leisure to check if the post is "in line".... sometimes the post is rather enigmatic, as mine (in both my moderator and commentor personas sometimes are) ... and sometimes it is a welcome diversion. -REP]

  89. Ian says:

    I was asked to give examples of risible. Here’s one “OMG! Either build more elk fences or eat more “elk burgers”; there will be more trees either way.”

    and another: “Elk graze…source…me…I have watched them many times…and sometimes I was with another friend…so my research has been peer reviewed…Wow this science stuff is easy…even a “Caveman could do it”.

    and a third: “I would like to read the lame-o paper to see if it addresses a few points. First, Arizona elk having been going at it like bunnies since they were re-introduced into Arizona (the original elk population was extirpated around 1900) from Yellowstone starting in 1919 and off and on into the ’20s” I would say about the last comment if you haven’t read the paper you are hardly in a position to call it “lame-o”

    As for those who don’t know what risible means (and can’t spell it) it doesn’t say much for your personal willingness to undertake any research at all let alone comment on the research of others. Risible means laughable or ludicrous as a 5 second scan of Google will show.

  90. Leo Morgan says:

    @ Peak Warming Man and Ian,

    I don’t read the comments above the same way that you do. It’s not possible to simultaneously have free speech and also have everybody say what we want them to say. Not even to have them say things in the way we’d like them to.

    Blog comments are not scientific journals, they are people’s responses to what they’ve read. Many of these comments are the equivalent of a verbal response to what has been said. Accordingly responses with little reflection and source citation are the norm in this medium. Rather than critique the nature of the medium, I personally am impressed by the number of posts that do link to evidence in support of the writer’s views. OF course, such posts are much harder to write than an automatic riposte, and are more likely to be found further down the list of comments.

    One of the strengths of WUWT is that Anthony and the moderators let people have their say. Compare this to sites like Real Climate and Tamino’s Open Mind, which repeatedly damage their credibility by censorship. It is this failure to permit all views to be voiced that turns their contributions into political advocacy not scientific discussion.

    Given the choice I’d have everything I read be civil, thoughtful, evidence based and interesting. Given the choice, I’d be Bill Gates heir. Not having the choice in either case, it’s best that I not spend too much time complaining about it.

  91. observa says:

    Do you think the two legged fauna of Canberra will be able to adapt to global warming/climate change/climate disruption or whatever it is they’re supposed to be adapting to nowadays?

    http://www.news.com.au/breaking-news/canberra-wakes-to-record-big-chill/story-e6frfku0-1226242592186

    Perhaps it might help if we fenced them off?

  92. Ian says:

    Leo Morgan makes a fair comment when comparing the policies of WUWT, RealClimate and Tamino’s Open Mind. Of course given Tamino’s policy on comments, “Open Mind” really is a risible misnomer. That said, bagging an unread piece of research gives much ammunition to Grant Foster (Tamino) and Gavin Schmidt (Real Climate) to deride WUWT. Surely this isn’t what commentators to WUWT want. Is it?

  93. Seems I’ve been reading about the decline of US songbird populations since I was a child. Various mechanisms are porposed at various times.
    A weakness with the study as described above is this: Even though animals might devegetate or kill more trees than before, have trees passed a threshhold, or do enough remain? Many songbirds fly. Maybe they fly to where there are enough trees.

    BTW, if you read the notebooks of the great Audubon, you will find passages like (in today talk) “…..had a good day at the office. Shot several rare birds before lunch. Wired them to frames by nightfall, ate some from yesterday’s shooting. Had the missus and the girlfriend fill in the painting of a few backgrounds.”

    Cut the glorification, stick to observation and deduction.

  94. Wucash says:

    What is this heresy? Life adapting to its environment? You evil deniers! Don’t you know that life can’t adapt to anything and the world hasn’t changed since the dawn of time until now through our evil human activities? You should be ashamed for spreading such lies against our scientific canon, the hockey stick!

  95. HR says:

    Maurizio Morabito (omnologos) says:
    January 11, 2012 at 1:13 pm
    They’re depicting elks as near-vermin and birds as victims.

    Just another case of four legs bad, two legs better.

    …………………………………………………………………………………..

    WOW that’s a strong accusation, to suggest they’re anti-leg!

  96. timg56 says:

    davidmhoffer,

    Making an observation that some commentors go a bit overboard does not make a troll. Both posters do have a point. There are a number of derisive comments that are not really deserved. As I mentioned above, the USGS is one of the premier scientific organizations in the country. They concentrate on the science, not policy. Questioning their motives because one enjoys pointing out the now almost manditory reference to climate change is uncalled for. There is also the fact that we are discussing a press release, which was certainly not created by the researchers.

    I for one have learned some interesting things about elk, particularly on what is happening in Yellowstone as a result of re-introduction of wolves. It is comments such as these that make this a worthwhile use of my time. Name calling other posters because they say something you don’t like isn’t.

  97. Andrew says:

    @ Al Gored

    My apology’s Sir,

    My point…and opinion:

    Most city folk don’t understand country folk. New Yorkers make fun of Rednecks. But Redneck hunters intuitively know more about elk(s)…than the people in the Ivory Towers overlooking Central Park, or attending a NFL game at the Meadow Lands just across the river in the “Garden State” of New Jersey…best know today…not for its gardens, but rather Snooki and The Situation.

    These people will not give up their modern way of life for the sake of the environment, yet they expect the people of the “great fly over” parts of the country to give up their way of LIFE, their JOBS, their FAMILY FARMs (to pay estate taxes…which are no big deal if its liquid, but way harder for family farmers to deal with…right Mr.Buffet?)

    Why do the City Slickers get to change the rules? The Constitution prohibits that behavior. So the City Slickers subvert it. ESA, EPA, NOAA…who is most impacted by these regulations? Big publicly traded companies…like GE…or the little guy?

    Why should anyone listen to the beliefs from somebody in New York or Boston or LA…when it comes to ELKS in Wyoming? Do you get trendy New York City restaurant advice from a rancher in Wyoming? No you ask Stefon from Saturday Night Live.

    At least get a few different opinions…from different people…before you spend trillions of dollars of our grandchildren’s money for ‘Pig in a Poke’…do not be a ‘chicken little’ or a ‘silly goose’…

    Sorry, this stupid soapbox keeps getting in my way!

    Al Gored…none of this rant was directed at you, btw…

  98. Andrew says:

    Russ in Houston says:
    January 11, 2012 at 6:34 pm
    “Elk Smelk… I’m waiting for the peer reviewed published paper that show the expansion in the ranges of wild hogs in the south is caused by climate change.”

    hmmm…Russ in Houston…be careful what you wish for…and umm…please don’t shoot the messenger…

    http://www.feral.org.au/pest-distribution-under-climate-change/

    Seriously…I read what you wrote, I googled… wild hogs in the south is caused by climate change…

    This post…top hit…You are famous now! Result # 7 is from the link to Feral dot org…

    “This project, funded by the Invasive Animals Cooperative Research Centre on behalf of the New South Wales Department of Environment, Climate Change and Water, develops and applies tools to model the distribution and abundance of vertebrate pest species in relation to climatic and biophysical variables. Such models are needed to predict how the distribution of pest species may vary under a changing climate. We assembled a priority list of vertebrate pests affecting biodiversity in New South Wales (NSW) based on reported threats to species, populations and ecological communities. Feral goats, feral cats, red foxes, European rabbits, and feral pigs are the most common recorded threats to ‘endangered’ or ‘vulnerable’ terrestrial species in NSW, affecting 84.5% of threatened species listed.”

    I bet you are super happy you didn’t have to wait long…grrrrr

    Andrew

  99. Andrew says:

    [REP Says.... Because of the volume, moderators often dom't have the leisure to check if the post is "in line".... sometimes the post is rather enigmatic, as mine (in both my moderator and commentor personas sometimes are) ... and sometimes it is a welcome diversion. -REP]

    Whew…

    oh and to Russ in Houston…I bet if wolves were reintroduced…pig problem solved!

  100. Andrew says:

    @ Ian

    YOU included my quote ” and another: “Elk graze…source…me…I have watched them many times…and sometimes I was with another friend…so my research has been peer reviewed…Wow this science stuff is easy…even a “Caveman could do it”.

    Please help me understand your comments as they relate to my comments. I fail to see where what I said has anything to do with the point you are attempting to make.

    Were you attempting to insult me by including my quote, and then stating:

    “As for those who don’t know what risible means (and can’t spell it) it doesn’t say much for your personal willingness to undertake any research at all let alone comment on the research of others.”

    Was that directed at me? I am just looking for clarification. Also, were you wanting a reply of some sort?

    Andrew

  101. Andrew says:

    Cats eat songbirds.

    Agree? Wanna be ‘peers’?

    Next…

  102. George E. Smith; says:

    “”””” Ian says:

    January 11, 2012 at 11:00 pm

    I was asked to give examples of risible. Here’s one “OMG! Either build more elk fences or eat more “elk burgers”; there will be more trees either way.”
    …………………………………
    As for those who don’t know what risible means (and can’t spell it) it doesn’t say much for your personal willingness to undertake any research at all let alone comment on the research of others. Risible means laughable or ludicrous as a 5 second scan of Google will show. “””””

    Well I certainly didn’t ask for examples; maybe David Hoffer did. I specifically said I could live without it.
    If it means “laughable” or “ludicrous”, then why not use one of those, since virtually anyone English literate knows exactly what both of those mean.

    What is with this modern fad of making up words that have the same meaning as existing words; or arbitrarily using existing words unnecessarily and often completely wrongly.

    For example, a very common American statement would be: ” Professor Al Gore will be with us momentarily. ”

    Translation and strong suggestion; say “Professor Al Gore will be with us soon.”

    Literal translation: “Professor Al Gore will be with us FOR a moment.” NOT, “IN a moment”

  103. Jim G says:

    What if there are less elk due to human introduced wolves eating them, which is the case in parts of the state? What if the elk come down well beyond the snow line to graze/browse regularly anyway making the snow pack less of a, or no, factor, which is the case in many areas of elk habitat? What if the “snow pack” is more, not less which the one snow fall graph provided in one of the above posts would indicate? What if any one of a hundred other exogenous potential causal variables is in effect in this “study” in addition to or instead of just snow pack? What if snow pack variation is not caused by “climate change” but by cyclical weather patterns?

    This study would be humorous if not so sad a comment on political correctness and the complete lack of scientific method for research in our univerities today.

    I have, by the way, collected elk sheds within the fenced areas set up to keep the elk, deer and cattle from grazing in such areas. Cattle do have a significant effect of the grass, elk not so much. Cattle fences for study areas are generally shorter than those intended to keep out deer and elk. I have also seen bull elk with full head gear walk through the walk-in gates designed to keep them in/out of an area by turning their heads sideways. Most cattle can not figure these gates out.

  104. Jim G says:

    Sorry, Montana study done in Arizona, probably not so many wolves that I know of.

  105. Al Gored says:

    Andrew says:
    January 12, 2012 at 11:14 am

    “My point…and opinion:

    Most city folk don’t understand country folk….”

    I hear you Andrew. In spades.

    I am convinced that the root of this problem is very simple. People who live in cities only know nature via TV for the most part. So they are very easily to fool with cute nature shows and greenie propaganda. And since there are more of them, democracy can suck due to this misinformation.

    Add to that the demonization of people like ranchers by the greenies, and you end up with masses of citiots who care more about phoney wildlife crises than about people… cause, you know, they’re all red neck hillbillies anyhow.

    Classic example of this is the wolf reintroduction in Yellowstone (plus). After the wolf population exploded there, to levels far higher than was originally agreed to, the greenies were able to convince the people that there were still not enough wolves while the rural people were having cattle, horses, sheep, dogs killed and wolves getting way too bold around people for comfort. Plus they could sue and had a perfect dupe of a judge to manipulate.

  106. Randy says:

    The hunting population is getting older. The Clinton administration closed many access roads, so hunters who can not affort horses and who do not have the physical ability to pack out an elk over several miles are not hunting any more.

  107. Jim G says:

    Al Gored says:

    “Plus they could sue and had a perfect dupe of a judge to manipulate.”

    Yep, and we tax payers pay their lawyers to litigate against us. What a country!!

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