Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations

Computers To Save Unique Type Of American Red Squirrel

Date:
April 27, 2006
Source:
University of Newcastle upon Tyne
Summary:
Researchers from the University of Newcastle upon Tyne in England, working with The University of Arizona in the US, have developed a special computer model which in time will pinpoint the biggest threats to the rare Mount Graham Red Squirrel and help prevent it dying out in 30-years time.

Mount Graham Red Squirrel.
Credit: Claire Zugmeyer

UK expertise is being exported to North America to help prevent a unique type of red squirrel dying out in as little as 30 years time.

Researchers from the University of Newcastle upon Tyne in England, working with The University of Arizona in the US, have developed a special computer model which in time will pinpoint the biggest threats to the rare Mount Graham Red Squirrel.

Details of the model are published in the academic journal Biological Conservation.

The Mount Graham Red Squirrel, isolated for the last 10,000 years in a small area of coniferous forest on a mountain in the Arizona desert, has a unique shape, genetic make-up and behavioural characteristics. It is a recognised subspecies and protected under the United States' Endangered Species Act. The mountain itself is known globally for the Mt. Graham International Observatory.

The British academics are applying expertise developed while working with the threatened UK red squirrel - a completely different species to the Mount Graham variety despite the similar names - in one of its last strongholds in Europe, Kielder Forest on the Scottish border. With around 10,000 red squirrels, Kielder hosts England's largest remaining population.

In Kielder, Newcastle University's Dr Peter Lurz and colleagues used the model to create a conservation strategy for the forest, assisting with planting and felling plans to help maintain a viable red squirrel population. Here, the reds' biggest threat is the introduced grey squirrel, which out-competes them for food and transfers a deadly virus.

In the US, the new computer model, which mimics population dynamics in response to different threats, will help evaluate and refocus existing efforts to save Mount Graham Red Squirrel. Although conservation measures are already in place, concerns about the animal's viability have increased as numbers have more than halved since 1999, dropping from 562 to a recent low of 214.

As with the British red squirrel, one of the Mount Graham red squirrel's threats is an introduced species of squirrel. The Abert's tree squirrel likes to eat similar types of food to the reds and also plunders the food middens they build to see them through the winter.

Other threats include damage to its habitat by insects and huge forest fires, as well as predation from birds of prey like the Mexican Spotted Owl and the Northern goshawk and mammals like the Bobcat.

Dr Peter Lurz, a research associate based at Newcastle University's Institute for Research on Environment and Sustainability, began working on the project when the Arizona University team attended an international squirrel symposium in North East England hosted by Newcastle University.

Dr Lurz said: "I think the important thing to remember is that there are multiple threats facing the Mount Graham Red Squirrel, and their survival depends on how these are best managed."

The UK-US team have so far used the model to examine potential effect of predation and the Abert's squirrel on squirrel population but are to expand on this: "The model will help identify areas where we need more research, will inform researchers' field work and will ultimately help the team to identify how future conservation efforts can best be focused," added Dr Lurz.

John Koprowski, associate professor with The University of Arizona's School of Natural Resources, and MSc student David Wood are working on the project in the US.

Prof Koprowski said current conservation methods, such as limiting access to the mountain, restricting hunting and an existing squirrel refuge did not appear to be stemming the population's decline. He said: "It's very important that we preserve the Mount Graham Red Squirrel, which has survived since the last Ice Age. Its decline in recent years is an indication of something changing on the mountain, and we need to find out what it is.

He added: "There are also important ecological reasons to save it - for example the squirrel's middens are an important source of food and habitat for chipmunks, voles, and mice, and the forest would be quite different without these animals. Moreover, if we can't save a species in a relatively controlled, isolated environment like this, it doesn't bode well for effective conservation of other species in more complex situations."

The project was part-funded by the Arizona Game and Fish Department and the Rocky Mountain Research Station of the USDA Forest Service.


Story Source:

The above story is based on materials provided by University of Newcastle upon Tyne. Note: Materials may be edited for content and length.


Cite This Page:

University of Newcastle upon Tyne. "Computers To Save Unique Type Of American Red Squirrel." ScienceDaily. ScienceDaily, 27 April 2006. <www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2006/04/060427093430.htm>.
University of Newcastle upon Tyne. (2006, April 27). Computers To Save Unique Type Of American Red Squirrel. ScienceDaily. Retrieved July 25, 2014 from www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2006/04/060427093430.htm
University of Newcastle upon Tyne. "Computers To Save Unique Type Of American Red Squirrel." ScienceDaily. www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2006/04/060427093430.htm (accessed July 25, 2014).

Share This




More Plants & Animals News

Friday, July 25, 2014

Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations


Featured Videos

from AP, Reuters, AFP, and other news services

Boy Attacked by Shark in Florida

Boy Attacked by Shark in Florida

Reuters - US Online Video (July 24, 2014) An 8-year-old boy is bitten in the leg by a shark while vacationing at a Florida beach. Linda So reports. Video provided by Reuters
Powered by NewsLook.com
Goma Cheese Brings Whiff of New Hope to DRC

Goma Cheese Brings Whiff of New Hope to DRC

Reuters - Business Video Online (July 24, 2014) The eastern region of the Democratic Republic of Congo, mainly known for conflict and instability, is an unlikely place for the production of fine cheese. But a farm in the village of Masisi, in North Kivu is slowly transforming perceptions of the area. Known simply as Goma cheese, the Congolese version of Dutch gouda has gained popularity through out the region. Ciara Sutton reports. Video provided by Reuters
Powered by NewsLook.com
Tyrannosaur Pack-Hunting Theory Aided By New Footprints

Tyrannosaur Pack-Hunting Theory Aided By New Footprints

Newsy (July 24, 2014) A new study claims a set of prehistoric T-Rex footprints supports the theory that the giant predators hunted in packs instead of alone. Video provided by Newsy
Powered by NewsLook.com
Bill Gates: Health, Agriculture Key to Africa's Development

Bill Gates: Health, Agriculture Key to Africa's Development

AFP (July 24, 2014) Health and agriculture development are key if African countries are to overcome poverty and grow, US software billionaire Bill Gates said Thursday, as he received an honourary degree in Ethiopia. Duration: 00:36 Video provided by AFP
Powered by NewsLook.com

Search ScienceDaily

Number of stories in archives: 140,361

Find with keyword(s):
Enter a keyword or phrase to search ScienceDaily for related topics and research stories.

Save/Print:
Share:

Breaking News:
from the past week

In Other News

... from NewsDaily.com

Science News

    Health News

      Environment News

        Technology News



          Save/Print:
          Share:

          Free Subscriptions


          Get the latest science news with ScienceDaily's free email newsletters, updated daily and weekly. Or view hourly updated newsfeeds in your RSS reader:

          Get Social & Mobile


          Keep up to date with the latest news from ScienceDaily via social networks and mobile apps:

          Have Feedback?


          Tell us what you think of ScienceDaily -- we welcome both positive and negative comments. Have any problems using the site? Questions?
          Mobile: iPhone Android Web
          Follow: Facebook Twitter Google+
          Subscribe: RSS Feeds Email Newsletters
          Latest Headlines Health & Medicine Mind & Brain Space & Time Matter & Energy Computers & Math Plants & Animals Earth & Climate Fossils & Ruins