INTEGRATING THERMAL CONSTRAINTS INTO HABITAT SUITABILITY FOR MOOSE IN THE ADIRONDACK STATE PARK, NEW YORK
Keywords:Adirondacks, Climate change, Habitat Suitability, Heat Stress, Operative Temperature, Thermal Cover
Moose (Alces alces) survive cold winter temperatures due to their large body size, thick skin, and dense, dark pelage. These same characteristics impede heat dissipation under thermal conditions often encountered in spring-fall. While thermal cover has long been recognized as an important component of moose habitat suitability, it has not been explicitly incorporated into published models. We integrated the biophysical construct of operative temperature, Te, into an existing Habitat Suitability Index (HSI) model for moose in the Adirondack State Park (ASP) of New York. Te is a thermal index that incorporates the effects of radiative and convective heat transfer on air temperature. We modeled air temperature with respect to elevation and calculated solar radiation transmitted through the canopy as a function of topography, location, forest cover-type, and time of year. We classified 1028, 25 km2 evaluation units for thermal suitability based on a modified upper critical threshold for Te derived from published studies. Compared to a published model for ASP, our HSI better classified moose observations in low, moderate, and high suitability categories, especially during April. We discuss the complexities of modeling thermal suitability for moose.
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