Yukon Researcher Raises Alarm Over Arctic Keystone Species, the Ptarmigan

Some alarming news is coming from researchers at Yukon College:

For the past 40 years, the population size of the Willow Ptarmigan has been predictable until recently. The current expected cycle of the Willow Ptarmigan in the Yukon has disappeared, alarming scientists around the world about what the disappearance might mean to the entire ecosystem.

“An ecological community will collapse without a healthy keystone species and the Yukon’s arctic tundra is built upon the 10 year cycle of the Ptarmigan”, said biologist Dave Mossop of Yukon College, who has spent many years in the field counting Willow Ptarmigan in the arctic tundra.

The 10 year cycle charts the natural rise and fall of the population of the herbivorous birds, which in turn affects the population of their predators. “The Ptarmigan survey results are frightening – the numbers suggest that we have lost the last cycle and when their population numbers should be increasing, they are decreasing”, explained Mossop. Since 2000, population peaks within the cycle seem to be disappearing which may be bad news for predators in this ecosystem.

More on the Yukon College Web site.