Low diversity at Newfoundland

20 Nov

Corresponding about white spruce breeding on Newfoundland some discussion went over on fauna and part of this seem to have relevance for Swedish wolf related problems. The ghost author and researcher for this article is Cyril Lundrigan (Department of Natural Resources, Government of Newfoundland and Labrador) ,  although I edited and complemented it.

Newfoundland is an island in eastern Canada which may be most known for Scandinavians as the place where vikings made a colonialism attempt around year 1000 which failed because the hostile attitude of the native population. A foresighted attitude, which saved America from European colonization half a millennium! This was the first documented encounter between the western fringe of humans expanding westward and the eastern fringe of those expanding eastward over Asia and Bering’s straight.

Newfoundland is slightly more than 1000 square ”mil” at around latitude 50

It has been shown that most species are very highly related, having passed through a bottleneck at some point; even the introduced (i.e., non-native) moose population arose from 4 to 6 individuals transported into the island in 1904 and peaked at 150,000 in 1997.  The moose are extremely healthy … there’s a thriving outfitting business catering to hunters from all over the world that come in search of trophy animals.  Moose can weigh up to 1,200 pounds, some with 50-inch spreads and hunters can enjoy an established 85% success rate.  Local people are more concerned with procuring meat, so size is less relevant to them.  The population is so high in protected areas such as our Federal Parks (Gros Morne and Terra Nova) that moose browsing has substantially changed forest successional patterns and is of great concern (http://www.pc.gc.ca/progs/np-pn/sf-fh/info/2.aspx). That a healthy large moose population can arise from a few founders is one of many examples that initial severe inbreeding and few founders may give raise to a large healthy population.

Initial wolf was lost in the early 1900’s (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Newfoundland_Wolf )  though black bear are present in good numbers and have been known to take moose calves.  Coyote were naturally introduced back in the mid 1980’s http://web.archive.org/web/20071031015946/http://www.env.gov.nl.ca/env/wildlife/publications/coyotenews2.pdf  and the first mainland wolf was confirmed last year http://www.thetelegram.com/Canada—World/Sports/2012-05-25/article-2987989/Wolf-in-Newfoundland-probably-made-it-to-island-on-ice%2C-experts-say/1 . Coyote and bear have interesting paths of development. It’s a very interesting place to be, in terms of ecosystem changes.

It is generally accepted that most species experienced a bottleneck during the Wisconsin glaciation period which retreated from the island about 8400 BP, as the following article will explain. http://www.mun.ca/biology/dinnes/Pinus.pdf

For a number of years there have been a high number of vehicle collisions (involving human fatalities) with moose crossing our provincial highways http://www.env.gov.nl.ca/env/wildlife/moose_vehicle_awareness.html.  Of course this is due to the increase in moose numbers, but other factors are unsafe driving speeds (especially at night), more night-time drivers, and more young inexperienced drivers.  A number of groups have been lobbying government to come up with a solution.  As a test study, government would be establishing moose fences and moose detection systems along portions of the highway.    There is more pressure on government to complete the fencing in areas with high moose populations but wildlife scientist are a bit leery of this given potential impact on other species (e.g., barrier to migration and dispersal). On the other side of the coin, there is a very vocal outfitter’s lobby group that is campaigning for the maintenance or an increase in moose populations on the island so they can increase their hunting license quotas.

The caribou populations on the island and mainland have suffered increasing declines under late management strategies http://www.releases.gov.nl.ca/releases/2008/env/0207n06.htm;  http://www.cbc.ca/news/canada/newfoundland-labrador/story/2012/06/25/625-nl-caribou-study.html  ; http://www.env.gov.nl.ca/env/wildlife/endangeredspecies/Woodland-Caribou-Recovery-Plan.pdf;  http://nfwcc.com/presentations/presentations/165_Terry_French.pdf .  Some blame that on inefficient scientific review of the viability of the performed management strategies.

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