BOISE, Idaho – Experts from around the world will discuss the effects of climate change on Gyrfalcons and other wildlife in the Arctic at a conference Jan. 31-Feb. 3 sponsored by The Peregrine Fund, Boise State University and the U.S. Geological Survey.
Scientists, policy analysts, land managers and other conservationists will attend the conference, which will be held in the Simplot Ballroom at the Student Union Building. The purpose of the conference is to learn more about the many and complex ways that climate change may affect the arctic ecosystem by focusing on the Gyrfalcon, a bird of prey, and its primary food source, the ptarmigan.
“If we can identify specific steps to take on behalf of the Gyrfalcon, we can potentially help conserve many of the species that inhabit that region,” said Rick Watson, vice president of The Peregrine Fund, a Boise-based conservation group for birds of prey
The conference kicks off Monday, Jan. 31, with a free, public lecture at 7 p.m. by polar bear expert Steve Amstrup, whose 30 years of research led to the decision in 2008 by then-Interior Secretary Dirk Kempthorne to list polar bears as an endangered species, Amstrup earned a master’s degree in wildlife management at the University of Idaho in 1975. He received his doctorate at the University of Alaska Fairbanks and worked for the U.S. Geological Survey in Alaska before joining the non-profit Polar Bears international in July.
As top predators, birds of prey also are excellent indicators of environmental stress, Watson said. In the 1960s, the plight of the Peregrine Falcon signaled the dangers of DDT, a pesticide that affected reproduction in many birds, including the Bald Eagle. After DDT was banned and a 30-year re-introduction program begun, the Peregrine Falcon recovered and was removed from the U.S. Endangered Species List.
Similarly, the Gyrfalcon may be a good indicator species for the Arctic, where the effects of global climate change are expected to be greatest. This bird of prey – one of the largest of all falcons -- is not currently endangered but the total population appears to be in decline, Watson said. Climate change could affect the Gyrfalcon’s ability to compete for ptarmigan and other food, migrate, nest and reproduce.
Registration and additional information about the conference, “Gyrfalcons and Ptarmigan in a Changing World,” is available at: http://www.peregrinefund.org/Gyr_Conference/index.html
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