New publication: The neglected season: Warmer autumns counteract harsher winters and promote population growth in Arctic reindeer

By Leif Egil Loe, Glen E. Liston, Gabriel Pigeon, Kristin Barker, Nir Horvitz, Audun Stien, Mads Forchhammer, Wayne Marcus Getz, Robert Justin Irvine, Aline Lee, Lars K. Movik, Atle Mysterud, Åshild Ø. Pedersen, Adele K. Reinking, Erik Ropstad, Liv Monica Trondrud, Torkild Tveraa, Vebjørn Veiberg, Brage B. Hansen, and Steve D. Albon in Global Change Biology. Open Access.

Abstract

Arctic ungulates are experiencing the most rapid climate warming on Earth. While concerns have been raised that more frequent icing events may cause die‐offs, and earlier springs may generate a trophic mismatch in phenology, the effects of warming autumns have been largely neglected. We used 25 years of individual‐based data from a growing population of wild Svalbard reindeer, to test how warmer autumns enhance population growth. Delayed plant senescence had no effect, but a six‐week delay in snow‐onset (the observed data range) was estimated to increase late winter body mass by 10%. Because average late winter body mass explains 90% of the variation in population growth rates, such a delay in winter‐onset would enable a population growth of r = 0.20, sufficient to counteract all but the most extreme icing events. This study provides novel mechanistic insights into the consequences of climate change for Arctic herbivores, highlighting the positive impact of warming autumns on population viability, offsetting the impacts of harsher winters. Thus, the future for Arctic herbivores facing climate change may be brighter than the prevailing view.


Global Change Biology
Volume 27, Issue 5 p. 993-1002
Publication webpage.


Leif Egil Loe, Glen E. Liston, Gabriel Pigeon, Kristin Barker, Nir Horvitz, Audun Stien, Mads Forchhammer, Wayne Marcus Getz, Robert Justin Irvine, Aline Lee, Lars K. Movik, Atle Mysterud1, Åshild Ø. Pedersen, Adele K. Reinking, Erik Ropstad, Liv Monica Trondrud, Torkild Tveraa, Vebjørn Veiberg, Brage B. Hansen, and Steve D. Albon

1 Centre for Ecological and Evolutionary Synthesis (CEES), Department of Biosciences, University of Oslo, Blindernveien 31, NO-0371, Oslo, Norway

See the publication webpage for full author information.

 

Tags: Global Change Biology;
Published Mar. 4, 2021 1:36 PM - Last modified Mar. 11, 2021 1:48 PM