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Ehrich D.,University of Tromso | Ims R.A.,University of Tromso | Yoccoz N.G.,University of Tromso | Lecomte N.,University of Tromso | And 15 more authors.
Ecosystems | Year: 2015

Understanding how climate change and increasing human impacts may exert pressure on ecosystems and threaten biodiversity requires efficient monitoring programs. Indicator species have been proposed as useful tools, and predators and their diet may be particularly suitable. The vast and remote arctic tundra represents a good case study as shifts in ecosystem states are presently occurring, and monitoring is a major challenge. Here we assess what stable isotopes reflecting the diet of the arctic fox, a widespread and highly flexible top predator, can contribute to effective monitoring of the vertebrate prey basis of Arctic tundra. We used data collected over 2–5 years from six sites in the Eurasian Arctic and Greenland. Stable isotope signatures of arctic fox winter fur reflected both spatial and temporal variability in the composition of the vertebrate prey basis. Clear contrasts were apparent in the importance of marine resources, as well as of small rodents and their multiannual density fluctuations. Some important resources could however not be separated because of confounding isotopic signatures. Moreover, except for preferred prey, the proportions of prey in the diet may not necessarily reflect the relative importance of species in the community of available prey. Knowing these limitations, we suggest that the arctic fox diet as inferred from stable isotopes could serve as one of several key targets in ecosystem-based monitoring programs. © 2014, Springer Science+Business Media New York. Source

Menyushina I.E.,State Nature Reserve Wrangel Island | Ehrich D.,University of Tromso | Henden J.-A.,University of Tromso | Ims R.A.,University of Tromso | Ovsyanikov N.G.,State Nature Reserve Wrangel Island
Oecologia | Year: 2012

Lemming cycles are a key process in the functioning of tundra ecosystems. Although it is agreed that trophic interactions are important in causing the cycles, the actual mechanism is disputed. Some researchers attribute a major role to predation by small mustelids such as stoats and least weasels. Here we present a 40-year time series of lemming dynamics from Wrangel Island and show statistically that lemmings do exhibit population cycles in the absence of small mustelids. The observed density fluctuations differed, however, from those observed elsewhere, with long cycles and possibly higher densities of lemmings during the low phase. These differences in the shape of the population cycles may be related to the unique species assemblage of Wrangel Island, where arctic foxes are the only year-round resident lemming predator, and to the high diversity of landscapes, microclimatic conditions, and plants on the island. Both spectral analysis and wavelet analysis show a change in period length from five years in the 1970s to nearly eight years in the 1990s and 2000s. This change in dynamics coincides with reports of dampening or fading out of lemming cycles that have been observed in several regions of the Arctic in recent decades. As in the other cases, the changed lemming dynamics on Wrangel Island may be related to ground icing in winter, which could delay peak years. © 2012 Springer-Verlag. Source

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