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Scarlet shorebird serves as harbinger of climate change between the poles


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Red Knots take flight.The Delaware Shorebird Project monitors migratory shorebirds in order to develop conservation and management programs to protect them.
... One of the most intriguing areas of research comes from scientists who’ve studied lemming cycles in the Arctic. Research released in 2008 suggested that lemmings, which breed in predictable multiyear cycles, have fallen out of that pattern.

 
Jim Fraser, a professor of wildlife at Virginia Tech, saw that study and thought there might be a link to the red knot. He published a paper looking at the idea that red knots are less likely to be eaten by predators such as foxes when there are lots of lemmings to eat instead, and that a dearth of lemmings might be contributing to the decline of the red knot.

The climate has become more humid in some Arctic zones, Fraser said, changing the characteristics of what’s known as the subnivean layer, the area between the ground and the snowpack. That layer becomes unstable and collapses, and the habitat for the lemmings to reproduce is no longer reliable. That creates less-than-ideal conditions for big bursts of lemming populations.

The Fish and Wildlife Service will decide by the end of September whether to list red knots as endangered or threatened, agency spokesman Chris Tollefson said. Until now, their listing has been precluded by other, higher-priority listing actions. If the agency proceeds with the listing, it also will consider whether some parts of the red knot habitat are essential for red knot conservation. It could designate those places as critical habitat – but only in the United States, not in the Arctic or South America.

 

Read more here: http://www.kansas.com/2013/06/18/2852853/scarlet-shorebird-serves-as-harbinger.html#storylink=cpy

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