Haase, C.G. 2010. Characterizing critical thermal environments for moose (Alces alces) in the Adirondack Mountains of New York. M.S. Thesis, State University of New York, College of Environmental Science and Forestry, Syracuse, New York, USA. 104 pp.


Moose, a bellwether species for climate change, become heat stressed at temperatures as low as -5 C in winter and 14 C in summer. Moose must balance the energetic cost of behavioral thermoregulation (i.e., seeking thermal shelters) against metabolizable energy intake over the long-term or face dire individual and population consequences. To characterize thermal cover for moose in the Adirondack State Park, I used hemispherical photography, Gap Light Analyzer and ArcGIS to model operative temperature, Te. Operative temperature is an index to the thermal environment, and was used to define thermal cover in a traditional Habitat Suitability Index (HSI) model. Relative to specific metabolic and behavioral thresholds, spring was thermally more stressful for moose compared to summer. The HSI model classified habitat suitability better than models lacking a thermal cover requisite. Predicting impacts of climate change on overall moose habitat suitability is complicated due to offsetting effects of specific heat balance components.