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Tree Loss from Bark-Beetle Infestation Impacts Elk Habitat

Although elk typically adapt to forest disturbances such as forest fires and logging, a new Journal of Wildlife Management study found that during the summer, elk avoided areas with extensive tree mortality that has occurred due to the bark-beetle epidemic in the northern portions of the Rocky Mountains in the Unites States.

Wednesday, February 6, 2019 12:01 am EST
"Ultimately this means that if elk are avoiding beetle-kill areas, this translates to much less forest habitat that elk typically would utilize during the summer"

Although elk typically adapt to forest disturbances such as forest fires and logging, a new Journal of Wildlife Management study found that during the summer, elk avoided areas with extensive tree mortality that has occurred due to the bark-beetle epidemic in the northern portions of the Rocky Mountains in the Unites States.

Avoidance of beetle-killed forest by elk during the summer has led to a decline in preferred habitat for elk that will be of importance to many wildlife and land managers responsible for managing elk populations in areas impacted by the bark-beetle epidemic.

“Although it is common following forest disturbances for elk to seek out and capitalize on the resulting increases in highly palatable and nutritious forage, during the summer months, elk in our study area fairly consistently avoided beetle-kill. This result is somewhat counter to how we typically think elk respond to forest disturbances,” said lead author Bryan G. Lamont, of the University of Wyoming. “It appears there are some subtle, but real differences between disturbances such as forest fires and the bark-beetle epidemic.”

Lamont noted that for elk in the study, the increases in the number of downed trees and loss of canopy cover seemed to outweigh the meager increases in understory in bark-beetle affected areas. “Ultimately this means that if elk are avoiding beetle-kill areas, this translates to much less forest habitat that elk typically would utilize during the summer,” he said.

Additional Information

Link to Study: https://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/full/10.1002/jwmg.21631  

About Journal 

The Journal of Wildlife Management publishes manuscripts containing information from original research that contributes to basic wildlife science. Suitable topics include investigations into the biology and ecology of wildlife and their habitats that has direct or indirect implications for wildlife management and conservation. This includes basic information on wildlife habitat use, reproduction, genetics, demographics, viability, predator-prey relationships, space-use, movements, behavior, and physiology; but within the context of contemporary management and conservation issues such that the knowledge may ultimately be useful to wildlife practitioners. 

Also considered are theoretical and conceptual aspects of wildlife science, including development of new approaches to quantitative analyses, modeling of wildlife populations and habitats, and other topics that are germane to advancing wildlife science.   Limited reviews or meta analyses will be considered if they provide a meaningful new synthesis or perspective on an appropriate subject.  Direct evaluation of management practices or policies should be sent to the Wildlife Society Bulletin, as should papers reporting new tools or techniques.  However, papers that report new tools or techniques, or effects of management practices, within the context of a broader study investigating basic wildlife biology and ecology will be considered by The Journal of Wildlife Management. Book reviews of relevant topics in basic wildlife research and biology.

About Wiley

Wiley is a global leader in research and education. Our online scientific, technical, medical, and scholarly journals, and our digital learning, assessment, certification and student-lifecycle services and solutions help universities, academic societies, businesses, governments and individuals to achieve their academic and professional goals. For more than 200 years, we have delivered consistent performance to our stakeholders. The Company's website can be accessed at www.wiley.com.

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