Anchorage 6/1/16 – I am back to daily posting after a month spent reading a couple of the Anthropocene books we have collected and getting the garden in early. It is doing well, with most everything up and a daily supply of salad ingredients now flowing. That’s several weeks early.
I am returning temporarily to statewide public broadcasting to host a couple of “Talk of Alaska” shows. The next one will center on an Anthropocene theme I have been looking at – large predators, namely bears.
Anchorage and other communities in the state are about to be bombarded with bear events, including a bear spray demonstration, an “Arctic Entries” evening of bear storytelling, museum and gallery exhibitions, and a scientific conference http://www.cvent.com/events/24th-international-conference-on-bear-research-and-management/agenda-0536820866ca4e26a375fba0375d8e2b.aspx , among other things. My part of this will be a call-in radio show Tuesday, June 7th, 10 to 11 a.m. Alaska time, with bear experts, including Steve Amstrup, who used to do polar bear research for the government but is now chief scientist for an advocacy organization, Polar Bears International http://www.polarbearsinternational.org where he has helped to build the science around its protected status under the Endangered Species Act. The animals have been shown to have remarkable capacities, but still, mortalities and reproductive failure have arrived as the sea ice melts away.
You may recall my post on David Quammen’s predator book http://aknoosphere.com/2016/04/10/the-anthropocene-bookshelf-large-predators/ a 13-year-old book which projected a fairly dire future for man-eating predators worldwide. But predators are ecologically important. Anthropocene studies show that if we are going to get serious about managing our response to our planet’s albedo loss, we need to pay attention to both the carbon cycle and biodiversity. In general, the presence of top predators leads to richer ecosystems and more carbon sequestration. Even the diversity of the microbiome is enriched.
Quammen’s book is valuable because he actually traveled to and reports on many of the locations where large predators still have habitat and co-exist with human populations. Because most of these remaining habitat areas are remote, the people who live there rarely have much jurisdictional power over managing their wildlife – picture tigers in the jungles of Africa or India or bears in the Hindu Kush or Kamchatka. Yet for the most part both humans and animals have made adjustments. For public land and wildlife managers, there are best practices to be learned from some of these places. Dave Garshelis, bear co-chair of the International Union for the Conservation of Nature http://www.iucn.org and longtime Minnesota wildlife manager, supervises graduate students researching bears all over the world, and will join the program to discuss the global picture on bears of all species.
Here in Alaska we still have large habitat, healthy populations of bears, and the human population is sparse. Adjustments are routinely made, as our callers all across the state will likely be prepared to explain. One example I can quickly think of is the quick adoption of solar and generator powered electric fences for fish camps. Relatively speaking, rural Alaskans have more say over wildlife management than locals in most of the Third World, but issues of tribal jurisdiction are largely unresolved and certainly under-funded and colonial forces such as federal mandates and big-game guiding are significant.
But any discussion of wildlife management in Alaska can quickly go volatile. Emotions lie close to the surface on all sides of the issue. This year we have had some frightening maulings and controversy surrounds the management of any kind of predator. So I’m going to have my hands full.