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N Alaska Climate & Caribou




This project will estimate how climate induced changes in abundance and quality of Rangifer forage plants will affect the seasonal changes in body weight and fat and protein composition of caribou and reindeer.  This will be accomplished by explicitly linking a Dynamic Vegetation Model (DVM, Euskirchen et al. 2009) to an existing caribou energetics model (CARMODEL, Russell et al. 2005).  The DVM will project the effects of a suite of climate change scenarios (i.e. temperature, precipitation, soil heating, resulting inter-species nitrogen competition) on the seasonal aboveground non-woody biomass of several plant functional types (e.g. lichens, sedges, grasses, moss, Salix, Betula) that are consumed by Rangifer.  The energetics model will then be used to estimate the effects of assumed climate driven changes in the availability of plant functional types on caribou body condition (i.e. seasonal patterns of fat and protein deposition and use by caribou for maintenance and growth throughout the year of a) caribou that calve in the wetter portions of the Arctic coastal plain (Central Arctic, Teshekpuk), and b) caribou that calve in uplands and drier portions of the Arctic coastal plain (Western Arctic, Porcupine).




Quantitative projections of the direction and magnitude of climate>vegetation> wildlife effects under alternate warming scenarios are necessary to clearly detect the effects, or lack thereof, of non‐climate influences such as industrial development on Rangifer.  This work will provide the expected background trend information necessary for proper assessment of the strength and direction of non‐climate drivers of change for caribou.  The assessment of a suite of climate change scenarios will allow managers and subsistence users to more effectively understand the range of possible future conditions and to plan adaptation strategies.





Euskirchen, S.E., A.D. McGuire, F.S. Chapin III, and S. Yi. 2009. Changes in plant communities in northern Alaska under scenarios of climate change 2003-2100: Implications for climate feedbacks. Ecological Applications 19:1022-1043. Download PDF (2.52MB)





Brad Griffith, PI
Assistant Leader (Wildlife), USGS,
Alaska Cooperative Fish & Wildlife Research Unit,
209C Irving I Bldg.,
Univ. Alaska Fairbanks, Fairbanks, AK 99775
907-474-5067, Office; 907-474-7872, FAX
dbgriffith 'at'


Eugenie Euskirchen, Co-PI,
Research Assistant Professor,
Institute of Arctic Biology,
310 Irving I Bldg.,
Univ. Alaska Fairbanks, Fairbanks, AK 99775
907-474-1958, Office; 907-474-7872, FAX
seeuskirchen 'at'


Caroline Lundmark
215 Irving I Building
Institute of Arctic Biology
University of Alaska Fairbanks
Fairbanks, AK  99775
phone: 907.474.2414
clundmark 'at'