BOISE, Idaho – The Peregrine Fund will host the first meeting of the new Tundra Conservation Network in February to address increasing concerns about how climate change could affect life in the Arctic, from tiny plants to top predators like the Gyrfalcon.
Nineteen scientists from around the world, including all eight nations in the Arctic region, will attend the meeting February 10-12 at the World Center for Birds of Prey. The meeting will not be open to the public.
“Our goal is to plan research that the members will work on together to answer bigger questions about the tundra than can be answered by anyone working alone in their own country or scientific specialty,” said David Anderson, director of the Gyrfalcon Conservation Project for The Peregrine Fund. “We will be trying to answer complex scientific questions that incorporate a broad diversity of scientific knowledge and skill.”
The Tundra Conservation Network was established by The Peregrine Fund in 2013 as a key component of a new project to address threats to the Gyrfalcon, a bird of prey that spends most of the year in the Arctic. The raptor is not yet endangered, but computer simulations predict it will be within decades, and there are already indications that the changing climate is presenting many challenges to the species, as well as the plants and animals in the food chain on which it depends, Anderson said.
Members of the 30-person network come from government agencies, non-profits, natural history museums, and universities. Their specialties include birds of prey, tundra vegetation, ecological interactions between herbivores and vegetation and between predators and prey, computer modeling of future climate and predicting changes in vegetation and animal distributions, and population biology of wildlife.
“Partners were chosen for their wide range of specialties to simultaneously investigate the effect of climate change on multiple levels of ecosystem function and use the results to develop a complete understanding of the tundra ecosystem, from plants to top predators,” Anderson said. “We will see how climate change will affect the way the ecosystem works, how it might be altered, and how land and wildlife managers may adapt to conserve species like the charismatic Gyrfalcon and many others.”
Nowhere on Earth is the effect of climate change on biodiversity, biotic interactions, and ecosystem function and persistence likely to be more extreme and measurable than in the Arctic, Anderson said. Top predators, such as birds of prey, are sensitive to environmental change and serve as early indicators of threat and as models for conservation intervention.
“By focusing on the Arctic, we hope to get ahead of the conservation curve and learn lessons valuable for responding to climate change worldwide,” Anderson said.
Anderson joined The Peregrine Fund staff in 2012 to help launch the new Gyrfalcon Conservation Project and Tundra Conservation Network. He earned a master’s degree in raptor biology from Boise State University and a doctorate at Louisiana State University. Previously, Anderson worked for The Peregrine Fund in 1999 studying raptors in the Tawahka Asagni Biosphere Reserve in Honduras.
Major support for the meeting was provided by the Trust for Mutual Understanding.
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