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article imageGros Morne National Park being devoured by hungry moose

By Karen Graham     Oct 13, 2013 in Environment
Moose are devouring vegetation in Canada's Gros Morne National Park to the point that whole species of songbirds are disappearing, while new species have moved in. Research is now showing just how big an impact the moose have had on the park.
Designated a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 1987, Gros Morne National Park in Newfoundland is known for its natural scenic beauty, as well as its diversity of wildlife. None is more imposing or majestic than the moose that freely roam its environs.
But recently, changes in vegetation, along with an increase in deforestation in many areas of the park was brought to the attention of Darroch Whitaker, with Parks Canada in Gros Morne. A study of the problem resulted in some interesting findings.
A survey conducted by Lauren Rae, a Memorial University graduate student, showed a correlation between the decrease in vegetation and increasing deforestation to be attributed to the moose population roaming the park.
Not only had their eating habits changed the landscape in many areas, it had also resulted in the loss of habitat for a number of songbird species, forcing the birds to vacate the park. In turn, new species of birds, never before seen in the area had moved in.
"Gros Morne is home to over 100 species of birds, each with their own habitat requirements, said Whitaker, So if you look across a whole community of birds you can often see a lot of different ways the birds are going to be responding to this."
The vegetation changes have caused extensive deforestation in some areas, with young forests not growing back after older mature forests have died. Whitaker pointed to the "moose meadows" that now replaced once forested areas.
A decision was made to open the park to moose hunting, and Gros Morne is in its third hunting season. This was done after consulting the public, and explaining the reasons why the ecological integrity of the park needed to be maintained.
Whitaker said that a couple of remote areas have already been open to hunters for several weeks, with the rest of the park opening to hunting just after the Thanksgiving weekend. He is hoping the park will recover when the moose population is reduced.
The park does have a contingency plan in place if a recovery is not seen. There are plans for the re-planting of trees as well as other measures that would aid in bringing the park back to where it was before the moose went on their gastronomic holiday.
More about Canadian national parks, Moose, Bird species, Deforestation, Hunters
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