Members of the species Alces alces are known as moose in North America and elk in Europe and Asia. (The North America elk is a different species, Cervus canadensis.) Populations in temperate regions of North America declined substantially over the past two to three decades due to habitat degradation, the effects of climate change, poaching, and an increase in parasites. But populations in Europe are increasing. As climate change worsens, however, the future trends of moose and other large mammals in temperate and subarctic regions becomes more unknown. Mammals, especially large mammals, can play critical roles in ecosystems as grazers, predators, pollinators, and seed dispersers. Some have specific requirements for snow, sea ice, and temperatures, which is altered by climate change. Climate change also impacts habitat in other ways and affects food distribution, the spread of infectious diseases and parasites, and alters the frequency and severity of certain natural disasters. Large mammals that produce a low number of offspring each year and reach sexual maturity at later ages have a particularly difficult time recovering from major impacts to populations. Additionally, threats that may have been historically insignificant to a particular species can become significant once other stressors, such as climate change, negatively affect populations or the entire species. Humans need to actively seek to combat climate change and conserve species that play critical roles in ecosystems. This can be done by finding means to lessen your carbon footprint and decrease human impacts on wildlife, as well as support conservation scientists and organizations.
Photo and haiku: Samantha Oester