Demography of two lemming species on Bylot Island, Nunavut, Canada
Lemmings play a key role in the tundra food web and their widely reported cyclic oscillations in abundance may have a strong effect on other components of the ecosystem. We documented seasonal and annual variations in population density, reproductive activity, survival, and body mass of two sympatric species, the brown (Lemmus trimucronatus) and collared lemmings (Dicrostonyx groenlandicus), over a 2-year period on Bylot Island, Nunavut, Canada. We live trapped and marked lemmings on two grids throughout the summer and we estimated demographic parameters using three different capture–recapture methods. All three methods are based on robust estimators and they yielded similar population density estimates. The density of brown lemmings declined markedly between the 2 years whereas that of collared lemmings was relatively constant. For brown lemmings, 2004 was a peak year in their cycle and 2005 a decline phase. Density of brown lemmings also decreased during the summer, but not that of collared lemmings. The recruitment of juvenile brown lemmings in the population increased during the summer and was higher in the peak year than in the year after, but no change was detected in collared lemmings. Survival rates of both species tended to be lower during the peak year than in the following year and body mass of brown lemmings was higher in the peak year than in the following year. We conclude that both changes in adult survival and juvenile recruitment occur during the population decline of brown lemmings.