ROCKY HARBOUR The type of birds found in Gros Morne Park could change in the next few years if moose populations aren’t brought down.
That’s the finding of a study by Memorial University representatives published earlier this week. The research project entitled Multiscale Impacts of Forest Degradation through Browsing by Hyperabundant Moose on Songbird Assemblages. Memorial University Grenfell Campus environmental science professor Ian Warkentin said moose can have two impacts on songbirds that are attracted to forests as opposed to open spaces. The moose, he said, are eating a lot of the under-story of vegetation, which can change that vegetation’s structure, meaning less for the songbirds. Also, as trees fill in areas of trees that have been felled by or killed by insects, the moose can eat away at the vegetation filling in those areas, causing more open areas and attracting different kinds of birds.
“The moose can come in and eat the trees, killing them, so there’s an inability of the forest to recreate itself in those kinds of circumstances,” he said. “It has a domino effect across the community.”
He said the birds in question respond to habitat, and if these kinds of habitat structures disappear the birds simply won’t go back. The richness of species found in different patches across Gros Morne could be the same, he said, but the composition could be different.
“We could go from areas that are supporting these forest-dependent birds to areas that support open habitat species,” he explained. “The potential here is that we could see lots of birds being transitioned to a more open habitat, losing those species that need forest.”
The results were released as Gros Morne officials launch the third year of the moose population reduction program, which this year will include about 90 per cent of park lands.
Three zones are open this year, with the first having opened last month. The second opens Oct. 15 and the third will be opening Nov. 2.