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Alaskan national park glaciers - status and trends (Dec 2, 2014)

This is the final technical report presenting results of a three-year project involving scientists from the National Park Service, the University of Alaska, and Alaska Pacific University. These results differ, in some cases, from preliminary results presented in four prior progress reports and take priority over them. Objectives of the project include mapping of all glaciers within Alaska’s nine glaciated national parks at two time intervals, measurement of surface elevation changes on a subset of those glaciers, and an interdisciplinary summary of the nature and impacts of glacier change on 1-3 focus glaciers in each park. Objectives one and two are addressed here; the third focus glacier component will be presented in a companion interpretive report.

Climate Exposure of US National Parks in a New Era of Change (Nov 20, 2014)

US national parks are challenged by climate and other forms of broad-scale environmental change that operate beyond administrative boundaries and in some instances are occurring at especially rapid rates. Here, we evaluate the climate change exposure of 289 natural resource parks administered by the US National Park Service (NPS), and ask which are presently (past 10 to 30 years) experiencing extreme (<5th percentile or >95th percentile) climates relative to their 1901–2012 historical range of variability (HRV). We consider parks in a landscape context (including surrounding 30 km) and evaluate both mean and inter-annual variation in 25 biologically relevant climate variables related to temperature, precipitation, frost and wet day frequencies, vapor pressure, cloud cover, and seasonality. We also consider sensitivity of findings to the moving time window of analysis (10, 20, and 30 year windows). Results show that parks are overwhelmingly at the extreme warm end of historical temperature distributions and this is true for several variables (e.g., annual mean temperature, minimum temperature of the coldest month, mean temperature of the warmest quarter). Precipitation and other moisture patterns are geographically more heterogeneous across parks and show greater variation among variables. Across climate variables, recent inter-annual variation is generally well within the range of variability observed since 1901. Moving window size has a measureable effect on these estimates, but parks with extreme climates also tend to exhibit low sensitivity to the time window of analysis. We highlight particular parks that illustrate different extremes and may facilitate understanding responses of park resources to ongoing climate change. We conclude with discussion of how results relate to anticipated future changes in climate, as well as how they can inform NPS and neighboring land management and planning in a new era of change.

Invasive plant management in Wrangell-St. Elias National Park & Preserve (Jun 25, 2014)

The National Park Service Wrangell-St. Elias National Park has published a new report titled 'Invasive plant management in Wrangell-St. Elias National Park & Preserve: 2013 Summary report'.

High-resolution permafrost modeling in Wrangell-St. Elias National Park and Preserve and Denali National Park and Preserve (Apr 16, 2014)

The National Park Service Central Alaska Inventory and Monitoring Network has published two new permafrost modeling reports from Wrangell-St. Elias National Park and Preserve and Denali National Park and Preserve. The authors, Santosh K. Panda, Sergey S. Marchenko and Vladimir E. Romanovsky modeled the presence or absence of near-surface permafrost, temperature at the bottom of seasonal freeze-thaw layer and thickness of seasonal freeze-thaw layer within the parks. The project resulted in maps with a much finer resolution than previously existed. The maps show the impact of changing climate on near-surface permafrost temperature and its distribution and how it may evolve in the future with changing climate. The maps also identify (vulnerable) sites at higher risk of permafrost thawing, with concurrent changes in wildlife habitats and populations allowing park managers to make informed decision on resource management and design of monitoring programs.

The maps are available for WRST at https://irma.nps.gov/App/Reference/Profile/2209250 and DENA at https://irma.nps.gov/App/Reference/Profile/2208990.


Potential effects of warming climate on visitor use in three Alaskan national parks (Sep 6, 2013)

Alaska’s national parks draw millions of people annually to enjoy wildlife, breathtaking scenery, and recreational adventure. Visitor use is highly seasonal and occurs primarily during the summer months when temperatures are warm and daylight is long. Climate is an important consideration when planning a trip to Alaska’snational parks because of the great distances and associatedcosts of travel for many visitors. As a result of projected climatewarming, peak visitor season of use in Alaska’s national parksmay expand. To examine the potential effects of warming climate on park visitor season of use, we used regression analyses to quantify the relationship between historical (1980–2009) visitoruse and monthly temperatures for three Alaskan national parks and identi? ed the monthly mean temperatures at which the peakvisitor season of use occurred in each park. We compared thesecontemporary temperatures with projected future average monthlymean temperatures for 2040–2049 and 2090–2099 to providecontext for how visitation might be affected by warming climate.Based on historical relationships among temperature, visitor use, and increased temperatures associated with climate change, ouranalysis suggests that peak season of visitor use could expand into May and September depending on the park, the climate scenario,and the time period. As a consequence of a warming climate, planning by the National Park Service and other stakeholders mayneed to consider this transition in temperatures and the potentialfor an extended peak season of visitor use, along with otherclimate-related changes (e.g., extreme weather), climate-inducedenvironmental changes, and shifts in recreational opportunities that will likely accompany climate change.

Monitoring Dall’s sheep in the Central Alaska Network (Jul 30, 2013)

The Central Alaska (CAKN) and Arctic Networks are collaborating to monitor the abundance, composition, and distribution of Dall’s sheep in six of Alaska’s largest park units, including Denali and Wrangell-St. Elias. In 2010-2011, surveys were completed for most sheep habitat across the Network for the first time in 30 years. Estimates from those surveys shownumbers similar to the abundance estimates from the 1980s. In Denali, the population is approximately 2,252 sheep (1,871 – 2,765, CV = 10%), and is composed of approximately 16% lambs, 50% ewe-like (including ewes and immature rams), 26% less than full-curl rams, and 8% full-curl rams. In Wrangell-St. Elias, the population is approximately 12,428 sheep (10,780 – 14,470, CV = 8%) and is composed of approximately 18% lambs, 55% ewe-like, 21% less than full-curl rams, and 6% full-curl rams.

New Approach to Dall’s Sheep Monitoring Better, Cheaper (Jul 8, 2013)

FAIRBANKS, AK— Scientists with the National Park Service have developed new methods for monitoring Dall’s sheep in Alaska that are providing better information while reducing costs by as much as 80% over existing survey approaches.

The methods and survey results are described in an article published in the current issue of the Journal of Wildlife Management (Schmidt and Rattenbury 2013) as well as in an article published in the same journal last year (Schmidt et al. 2012).

The majority of sheep habitat in seven national park units, including Denali, Gates of the Arctic, Noatak, Kobuk Valley, Cape Krusenstern, Wrangell-St. Elias, and Lake Clark, was surveyed in 2010-12 using the new technique, and the estimated population for the surveyed park units is currently 27,000-28,000 individuals—similar to the number present in the early 1980s when many of the park units were formed.

“Designing a monitoring program that provides accurate results in these large, remote areas is a challenge,” said Kumi Rattenbury, Ecologist with the National Park Service in Fairbanks. “We’re excited about this new approach because it means we can do a better job tracking the status of this iconic species over a huge area.

”The approach uses aerial distance sampling techniques to estimate overall population size as well as the composition (lambs, ewes, full curl rams, and < full-curl rams) of each population. It was first implemented by the National Park Service in Gates of the Arctic National Park and Preserve in 2009 where park-wide surveys were completed for the first time in nearly 30 years.

“This is one of the few ways to get a rigorous estimate of both abundance and composition from the same survey,” said Joshua Schmidt, National Park Service Biometrician and lead author on the two articles describing the new methods. “The higher quality data and lower costs will allow us to more consistently monitor populations and improve sheep ... [Read full article]

Reducing Effort While Improving Inference: Estimating Dall’s Sheep Abundance and Composition in Small Areas. (Jun 26, 2013)

National Park Service wildlife biologist Kumi Rattenbury and Biometrician Josh Schmidt recently published a new article in the Journal of Wildlife Management titled 'Reducing Effort While Improving Inference: Estimating Dall’s Sheep Abundance and Composition in Small Areas'.

Annual report on vital signs monitoring of wolf (Canis lupus) distribution and abundance in Yukon-Charley Rivers National Preserve, Central Alaska Network: 2012 report (May 30, 2013)

Fairbanks, AK. May 1, 2013. National Park Service wildlife biologist John Burch has published a new Natural Resource Technical Report titled 'Annual report on vital signs monitoring of wolf (Canis lupus) distribution and abundance in Yukon-Charley Rivers National Preserve, Central Alaska Network: 2012 report'. The report is available at the following URL: https://irma.nps.gov/App/Reference/DownloadDigitalFile?code=469394&amp;file=YuchWolvesNetworkMonitoring2012AnnualReport_nrss.pdf

The full citation is as follows:
Burch, J. 2012. Annual report on vital signs monitoring of wolf (Canis lupus) distribution and abundance in Yukon-Charley Rivers National Preserve, Central Alaska Network: 2012 report. Natural Resource Technical Report NPS/CAKN/NRTR—2012/736. National Park Service, Fort Collins, Colorado.

Monitoring hazardous fuel reduction in Wrangell-St. Elias National Park and Preserve: Lessons learned from the Chokosna Fuels Reduction Project (May 24, 2013)

Fairbanks, AK. May 23, 2013. The National Park Service Central Alaska Inventory and Monitoring Network has published a new Natural Resource Data Series report titled 'Monitoring hazardous fuel reduction in Wrangell-St. Elias National Park and Preserve: Lessons learned from the Chokosna Fuels Reduction Project'.
Download the report

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