pink huckleberry leaves in fallA team of researchers from the University of Washington and U.S. Geological Survey have made used satellite images of Glacier National Park, to examine patterns in huckleberry plants that turn a brilliant red color each fall. Tracking where huckleberry plants live now — and where they may move under climate change — would help biologists predict where grizzly bears will also be found. Their new method is described in a recent paper in the International Journal of Remote Sensing.

“The inspiration behind the research was to map huckleberry patches to identify and protect areas of prime grizzly bear habitat. Grizzlies depend on huckleberries as a main source of food in late summer, and huckleberry distribution may be shifting with climate change,” said lead author Carolyn Shores, a doctoral student in the UW School of Environmental and Forest Sciences.

Despite the importance of huckleberries to grizzly bears, which are listed as threatened in the lower 48 states, there is no comprehensive way to know where the shrubs are located across the park’s vast terrain.

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