Wrangel Island State Nature Reserve

Island, Russia

Wrangel Island State Nature Reserve

Island, Russia
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Vongraven D.,Norwegian Polar Institute | Aars J.,Norwegian Polar Institute | Amstrup S.,Polar Bears International | Atkinson S.N.,53 Ashland Avenue | And 15 more authors.
Ursus | Year: 2012

Polar bears (Ursus maritimus) occupy remote regions that are characterized by harsh weather and limited access. Polar bear populations can only persist where temporal and spatial availability of sea ice provides adequate access to their marine mammal prey. Observed declines in sea ice availability will continue as long as greenhouse gas concentrations rise. At the same time, human intrusion and pollution levels in the Arctic are expected to increase. A circumpolar understanding of the cumulative impacts of current and future stressors is lacking, long-term trends are known from only a few subpopulations, and there is no globally coordinated effort to monitor effects of stressors. Here, we describe a framework for an integrated circumpolar monitoring plan to detect ongoing patterns, predict future trends, and identify the most vulnerable polar bear subpopulations. We recommend strategies for monitoring subpopulation abundance and trends, reproduction, survival, ecosystem change, human-caused mortality, human-bear conflict, prey availability, health, stature, distribution, behavioral change, and the effects that monitoring itself may have on polar bears. We assign monitoring intensity for each subpopulation through adaptive assessment of the quality of existing baseline data and research accessibility. A global perspective is achieved by recommending high intensity monitoring for at least one subpopulation in each of four major polar bear ecoregions. Collection of data on harvest, where it occurs, and remote sensing of habitat, should occur with the same intensity for all subpopulations. We outline how local traditional knowledge may most effectively be combined with the best scientific methods to provide comparable and complementary lines of evidence. We also outline how previously collected intensive monitoring data may be sub-sampled to guide future sampling frequencies and develop indirect estimates or indices of subpopulation status. Adoption of this framework will inform management and policy responses to changing worldwide polar bear status and trends. © International Association for Bear Research and Management.

Peacock E.,U.S. Geological Survey | Peacock E.,Environment Canada | Sonsthagen S.A.,U.S. Geological Survey | Obbard M.E.,Ontario Ministry of Natural Resources | And 20 more authors.
PLoS ONE | Year: 2015

We provide an expansive analysis of polar bear (Ursus maritimus) circumpolar genetic variation during the last two decades of decline in their sea-ice habitat. We sought to evaluate whether their genetic diversity and structure have changed over this period of habitat decline, how their current genetic patterns compare with past patterns, and how genetic demography changed with ancient fluctuations in climate. Characterizing their circumpolar genetic structure using microsatellite data, we defined four clusters that largely correspond to current ecological and oceanographic factors: Eastern Polar Basin, Western Polar Basin, Canadian Archipelago and Southern Canada. We document evidence for recent (ca. last 1-3 generations) directional gene flow from Southern Canada and the Eastern Polar Basin towards the Canadian Archipelago, an area hypothesized to be a future refugium for polar bears as climate-induced habitat decline continues. Our data provide empirical evidence in support of this hypothesis. The direction of current gene flow differs from earlier patterns of gene flow in the Holocene. From analyses of mitochondrial DNA, the Canadian Archipelago cluster and the Barents Sea subpopulation within the Eastern Polar Basin cluster did not show signals of population expansion, suggesting these areas may have served also as past interglacial refugia. Mismatch analyses of mitochondrial DNA data from polar and the paraphyletic brown bear (U. arctos) uncovered offset signals in timing of population expansion between the two species, that are attributed to differential demographic responses to past climate cycling. Mitogenomic structure of polar bears was shallow and developed recently, in contrast to the multiple clades of brown bears. We found no genetic signatures of recent hybridization between the species in our large, circumpolar sample, suggesting that recently observed hybrids represent localized events. Documenting changes in subpopulation connectivity will allow polar nations to proactively adjust conservation actions to continuing decline in sea-ice habitat. © 2015, Public Library of Science. All rights reserved.

Cahill J.A.,University of California at Santa Cruz | Green R.E.,University of California at Santa Cruz | Fulton T.L.,University of California at Santa Cruz | Stiller M.,University of California at Santa Cruz | And 8 more authors.
PLoS Genetics | Year: 2013

Despite extensive genetic analysis, the evolutionary relationship between polar bears (Ursus maritimus) and brown bears (U. arctos) remains unclear. The two most recent comprehensive reports indicate a recent divergence with little subsequent admixture or a much more ancient divergence followed by extensive admixture. At the center of this controversy are the Alaskan ABC Islands brown bears that show evidence of shared ancestry with polar bears. We present an analysis of genome-wide sequence data for seven polar bears, one ABC Islands brown bear, one mainland Alaskan brown bear, and a black bear (U. americanus), plus recently published datasets from other bears. Surprisingly, we find clear evidence for gene flow from polar bears into ABC Islands brown bears but no evidence of gene flow from brown bears into polar bears. Importantly, while polar bears contributed <1% of the autosomal genome of the ABC Islands brown bear, they contributed 6.5% of the X chromosome. The magnitude of sex-biased polar bear ancestry and the clear direction of gene flow suggest a model wherein the enigmatic ABC Island brown bears are the descendants of a polar bear population that was gradually converted into brown bears via male-dominated brown bear admixture. We present a model that reconciles heretofore conflicting genetic observations. We posit that the enigmatic ABC Islands brown bears derive from a population of polar bears likely stranded by the receding ice at the end of the last glacial period. Since then, male brown bear migration onto the island has gradually converted these bears into an admixed population whose phenotype and genotype are principally brown bear, except at mtDNA and X-linked loci. This process of genome erosion and conversion may be a common outcome when climate change or other forces cause a population to become isolated and then overrun by species with which it can hybridize. © 2013 Cahill et al.

Noren K.,University of Stockholm | Carmichael L.,University of Alberta | Dalen L.,University of Stockholm | Hersteinsson P.,University of Iceland | And 6 more authors.
Oikos | Year: 2011

Movement is a prominent process shaping genetic population structure. In many northern mammal species, population structure is formed by geographic distance, geographical barriers and various ecological factors that influence movement over the landscape. The Arctic fox Vulpes lagopus is a highly mobile, opportunistic carnivore of the Arctic that occurs in two main ecotypes with different ecological adaptations. We assembled microsatellite data in 7 loci for 1834 Arctic foxes sampled across their entire distribution to describe the circumpolar population structure and test the impact of (1) geographic distance, (2) geographical barriers and (3) ecotype designation on the population structure. Both Structure and Geneland demonstrated distinctiveness of Iceland and Scandinavia whereas low differentiation was observed between North America-northern Greenland, Svalbard and Siberia. Genetic differentiation was significantly correlated to presence of sea ice on a global scale, but not to geographical distance or ecotype designation. However, among areas connected by sea ice, we recorded a pattern of isolation by distance. The maximum likelihood approach in Migrate suggested that connectivity across North America-northern Greenland and Svalbard was particularly high. Our results demonstrate the importance of sea ice for maintaining connectivity between Arctic fox populations and we therefore predict that climate change will increase genetic divergence among populations in the future. © 2011 The Authors.

Rozenfeld S.B.,RAS Severtsov Institute of Ecology | Gruzdev A.R.,Wrangel Island State Nature Reserve | Sipko T.P.,Wrangel Island State Nature Reserve | Tikhonov A.N.,Russian Academy of Sciences
Biology Bulletin | Year: 2012

Seasonal changes in the diets of muskoxen and reindeer on Wrangel Island have been studied. The results are discussed with respect to consumption of basic forage plants depending on the feeding strategies and biotopic distribution of the two species. © 2012 Pleiades Publishing, Ltd.

Kazmin V.D.,Wrangel Island State Nature Reserve | Kholod S.S.,Russian Academy of Sciences | Rozenfeld S.B.,RAS Severtsov Institute of Ecology | Abaturov B.D.,RAS Severtsov Institute of Ecology
Biology Bulletin | Year: 2011

The species composition and aboveground biomass of plant and lichens and the composition of reindeer and musk ox diet in the arctic tundra of Wrangel Island were studied in 2004 to 2007. The above-ground phytomass in different areas of the island varied from 1105 to 2100 kg/ha. The composition of plants consumed by reindeer and musk oxen and their proportions in the diet were determined by standard micro-histological analysis of plant remains in their feces. The results showed that, either in winter or in summer, both species obviously preferred feeding on willows (Salicaceae), which comprised almost half of their diet. Moreover, their feeding was highly selective, especially with respect to sedges and rushes (Cyperaceae + Juncaceae) and legumes (Fabaceae). Although the contributions of these plant groups to the total aboveground phytomass were very small (less than 4 and 8%), their proportions in the diet reached 27 and 24%, respectively. Mosses were not a preferred forage: their proportion in the aboveground phytomass reached 40%, but that in the diets of both species was below 10% in summer and increased to 20% only in the winter diet of reindeer. At a high abundance of lichens (up to 20% of the aboveground phytomass), neither of the animals consumed them during the study period. © 2011 Pleiades Publishing, Ltd.

Kazmin V.D.,Wrangel Island State Nature Reserve | Abaturov B.D.,RAS Severtsov Institute of Ecology
Biology Bulletin | Year: 2011

In 2004 to 2006, studies on free-ranging reindeer and musk oxen on Wrangel island were performed to estimate the nutrient value, daily intake, and digestibility of forage in different seasons of the year. Forage digestibility was determined from the ratio between the contents of indigestible components (lignin) in forage and animal feces. Daily forage intake was calculated from data on daily feces excretion and forage digestibility. The amount of feces and parameters of life activity of individual animals were estimated by following their 24-hour tracks. The results show that the daily intake of forage (dry weight) in musk oxen amounts to 7. 8 kg in the summer period and decreases to 6. 1 kg in the snow period (March-April). Grazing reindeer in the snow period consume 3. 9 kg of forage per day. Forage digestibility in reindeer reaches 56% in March to April and decreases to 52% in June. In musk oxen, forage digestibility in different seasons (March, June, September) varies within a similar range (53-57%). Nutrition parameters (diet composition, forage intake rate and digestibility) of reindeer and musk oxen on grazing grounds of Wrangel Island are similar. Metabolizable energy consumption in both animals during the winter period is at the maintenance level (917-930 kJ/kg 0.75 body weight). In the summer period, this parameter in musk oxen increases to 1163 kJ/kg 0.75 body weight to meet the energy demand of the animals. © 2011 Pleiades Publishing, Ltd.

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