Roundup: Yaks, Snow Algae, and Slime Molds

How do wild yaks respond to glacier melt and past exploitation?

Yak at Yundrok Yumtso Lake

“To explore how mammals of extreme elevation respond to glacial recession and past harvest, we combined our fieldwork with remote sensing and used analyses of ~60 expeditions from 1850–1925 to represent baseline conditions for wildlife before heavy exploitation on the Tibetan Plateau. Focusing on endangered wild yaks (Bos mutus), we document female changes in habitat use across time whereupon they increasingly relied on steeper post-glacial terrain, and currently have a 20x greater dependence on winter snow patches than males. Our twin findings—that the sexes of a cold-adapted species respond differently to modern climate forcing and long-past exploitation—indicate that effective conservation planning will require knowledge of the interplay between past and future if we will assure persistence of the region’s biodiversity.”

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Snow algae grows on glacier surface annually.

Snow Algae

“Snow algae in shallow ice cores (7 m long) from Yala Glacier in the Lang-tang region of Nepal were examined for potential use in ice-core dating. Ice-core samples taken at 5350 m a.s.l. in 1994 contained more than seven species of snow algae. In a vertical profile of the algal biomass, 11 distinct algal layers were observed. Seasonal observation in 1996 at the coring site indicated most algal growth occurred from late spring to late summer. Pit observation in 1991, 1992 and 1994 indicated that algal layer formation takes place annually.”

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Slime mold preys on bacterium under snow.

Slime Molds

“Abundance and habitat requirements of nivicolous myxomycetes were surveyed over 4 yr at the northwestern Greater Caucasus ridge (Russia). An elevational transect spanning 3.66 km from 1 700 to 3 000 m a.s.l. was established at the summit Malaya Khatipara situated within the Teberda State Biosphere reserve. Between 2010 and 2013 1177 fructifications of nivicolous myxomycetes were recorded, with 700 of these determined to 44 species, varieties, and forms. Virtually all fructifications developed near or at the margin of a snow field. Abundance of myxomycete fructifications varied extremely between years, ranging from near zero to hundreds of colonies. At sites with known myxomycete occurrences 16 data loggers were installed in the years 2011 and 2012, measuring relative humidity and temperature at the soil surface. Together with weather data recorded on the nearby Klukhor pass and experiments with myxamoebae cultured on agar, these data explain the observed extreme fluctuations in myxomycete abundance.”

Read more about the article here.