Advertisement

Polar Biology

, Volume 40, Issue 11, pp 2329–2334 | Cite as

Feeding preference of brown lemmings (Lemmus trimucronatus) for plant parts of Arctic willow (Salix arctica)

  • Dominique Fauteux
  • Guillaume Slevan-Tremblay
  • Gilles Gauthier
  • Dominique Berteaux
Original Paper
  • 176 Downloads

Abstract

Food availability has been proposed to be a factor driving population fluctuations of lemmings in the Arctic. In contrast with previous studies, a recent analysis of faecal pellets and stomach contents of brown lemmings (Lemmus trimucronatus) reported a surprisingly high proportion (34–56%) of willows (Salix spp.) in their diet during both summer and winter in the Canadian high Arctic. To better understand the contribution of willows to the diet of lemmings, we designed a cafeteria experiment to determine which part of Arctic willows (S. arctica), usually the most abundant willow in the Canadian Arctic, were preferred by lemmings. We designed two types of experiments, one with flowering willows (summer stage; n = 10) and one with dormant willows without flowers or leaves (winter stage; n = 11). Lemmings preferred buds and to a lesser extent roots over woody stems in dormant willows, whereas in flowering willows, they preferred flowers and roots over leaves and buds. Our results suggest that lemmings shift their diet seasonally and prefer the fleshiest willow parts, i.e. flowers in summer and buds in winter. High consumption of roots by lemmings in both types of experiments indicates strong underground feeding habits. This behaviour could be favoured by geomorphological processes such as soil upheaves and permafrost thawing that often expose roots to grazing.

Keywords

Food limitation hypothesis Herbivory Arctic shrubs Grazing Diet composition Population cycles Lemmings 

Notes

Acknowledgements

We thank Christine Lambert, Aurélie Chagnon-Lafortune, and Yannick Seyer for their help with the field work. The research relied on the logistic assistance of the Polar Continental Shelf Program (Natural Resources Canada) and of Sirmilik National Park. The research was funded by the Natural Sciences and Engineering Research Council of Canada (Discovery Grants and Frontiers to Discovery programs), the Northern Student Training Program of Indian and Northern Affairs Canada, the Network of Centres of Excellence of Canada ArcticNet, the NSERC-CREATE Training Program in Northern Environmental Sciences Environord, the W. Garfield Weston Foundation, and the Fonds de recherche du Québec – Nature et technologies.

Supplementary material

300_2017_2147_MOESM1_ESM.docx (122 kb)
Supplementary material 1 (DOCX 121 kb)

References

  1. Aars J, Ims RA (2002) Intrinsic and climatic determinants of population demography: the winter dynamics of tundra voles. Ecology 83:3449–3456. doi: 10.2307/3072093 CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  2. Batzli GO (1983) Responses of arctic rodent populations to nutritional factors. Oikos 40:396–406. doi: 10.2307/3544312 CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  3. Batzli GO, Henttonen H (1990) Demography and resource use by microtine rodents near Toolik Lake, Alaska, USA. Arct Antarct Alp Res 22:51–64. doi: 10.2307/1551720 CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  4. Batzli GO, Jung H-JG (1980) Nutritional ecology of microtine rodents: resource utilization near Atkasook, Alaska. Arct Antarct Alp Res 12:483–499. doi: 10.2307/1550496 CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  5. Batzli GO, Pitelka FA (1983) Nutritional ecology of microtine rodents: food habits of lemmings near Barrow, Alaska. J Mammal 64:648–655. doi: 10.2307/1380521 CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  6. Beardsell A, Gauthier G, Therrien JF, Bêty J (2016) Nest site characteristics, patterns of nest reuse and reproductive success in an arctic nesting raptor, the Rough-legged Hawk. Auk 133:718–732. doi: 10.1642/AUK-16-54.1 CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  7. Berteaux D, Crête M, Huot J, Maltais J, Ouellet J-P (1998) Food choice by white-tailed deer in relation to protein and energy content of the diet: a field experiment. Oecologia 115:84–92. doi: 10.1007/s004420050494 CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
  8. Berteaux D, Gauthier G, Domine F, Ims RA, Lamoureux S, Lévesque E, Yoccoz NG (2016) Effects of changing permafrost and snow conditions on tundra wildlife: critical places and times. Arctic Sci. doi: 10.1139/as-2016-0023 Google Scholar
  9. Bilodeau F, Gauthier G, Fauteux D, Berteaux D (2014) Does lemming winter grazing impact vegetation in the Canadian Arctic? Polar Biol 37:845–857. doi: 10.1007/s00300-014-1486-x CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  10. Bryant JP, Kuropat PJ (1980) Selection of winter forage by subarctic browsing vertebrates: the role of plant chemistry. Annu Rev Ecol Syst 11:261–285CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  11. Christie KS, Ruess RW, Lindberg MS, Mulder CP (2014) Herbivores influence the growth, reproduction, and morphology of a widespread Arctic willow. PLoS ONE 9:e101716. doi: 10.1371/journal.pone.0101716 CrossRefPubMedPubMedCentralGoogle Scholar
  12. Danell K, Hjältén J, Ericson L, Elmqvist T (1991) Vole feeding on male and female willow shoots along a gradient of plant productivity. Oikos 62:145–152. doi: 10.2307/3545259 CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  13. Doiron M, Gauthier G, Lévesque E (2014) Effects of experimental warming on nitrogen concentration and biomass of forage plants for an Arctic herbivore. J Ecol 102:508–517. doi: 10.1111/1365-2745.12213 CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  14. Duchesne D, Gauthier G, Berteaux D (2011) Habitat selection, reproduction and predation of wintering lemmings in the Arctic. Oecologia 167:967–980. doi: 10.1007/s00442-011-2045-6 CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
  15. Fauteux D, Gauthier G, Berteaux D (2015) Seasonal demography of a cyclic lemming population in the Canadian Arctic. J Anim Ecol 84:1412–1422. doi: 10.1111/1365-2656.12385 CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
  16. Fortier D, Allard M, Shur Y (2007) Observation of rapid drainage system development by thermal erosion of ice wedges on Bylot Island, Canadian Arctic Archipelago. Permafrost Periglacial Proc 18:229–243. doi: 10.1002/ppp.595 CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  17. French HM (2007) The periglacial environment. Wiley, ChichesterCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  18. Gauthier G, Hughes JR (1995) The palatability of Arctic willow for greater snow geese: the role of nutrients and deterring factors. Oecologia 103:390–392. doi: 10.1007/bf00328629 CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
  19. Gauthier G, Bêty J, Cadieux MC, Legagneux P, Doiron M, Chevallier C, Lai S, Tarroux A, Berteaux D (2013) Long-term monitoring at multiple trophic levels suggests heterogeneity in responses to climate change in the Canadian Arctic tundra. Philos Trans R Soc B-Biol Sci 368:12. doi: 10.1098/rstb.2012.0482 CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  20. Gruyer N, Gauthier G, Berteaux D (2008) Cyclic dynamics of sympatric lemming populations on Bylot Island, Nunavut, Canada. Can J Zool 86:910–917. doi: 10.1139/z08-059 CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  21. Krebs CJ, Boutin S, Boonstra R, Sinclair ARE, Smith JNM, Dale MRT, Martin K, Turkington R (1995) Impact of food and predation on the snowshoe hare cycle. Science 269:1112–1115. doi: 10.1126/science.269.5227.1112 CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
  22. Lindroth RL, Batzli GO (1984) Food habits of the meadow vole (Microtus pennsylvanicus) in Bluegrass and Prairie habitats. J Mammal 65:600–606. doi: 10.2307/1380843 CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  23. Massey FP, Smith MJ, Lambin X, Hartley SE (2008) Are silica defences in grasses driving vole population cycles? Biol Lett 4:419–422. doi: 10.1098/rsbl.2008.0106 CrossRefPubMedPubMedCentralGoogle Scholar
  24. Merritt JF (1981) Clethrionomys gapperi. Mamm Species 146:1–9. doi: 10.2307/3503900 CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  25. Pinheiro J, Bates D, DebRoy S, Sarkar D (2016) nlme: linear and nonlinear mixed effects models. R package version 3.1-127Google Scholar
  26. Predavec M, Danell K (2001) The role of lemming herbivory in the sex ratio and shoot demography of willow populations. Oikos 92:459–466. doi: 10.1034/j.1600-0706.2001.920307.x CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  27. R Core Team (2016) R: A language and environment for statistical computing. R Foundation for Statistical Computing, Vienna, Austria. http://www.R-project.org/
  28. Rodgers AR, Lewis MC (1986) Diet selection in Arctic lemmings (Lemmus sibiricus and Dicrostonyx groenlandicus): forage availability and natural diets. Can J Zool 64:1684–1689. doi: 10.1139/z86-253 CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  29. Soininen EM et al (2015) Highly overlapping winter diet in two sympatric lemming species revealed by DNA metabarcoding. PLoS ONE 10:e0115335. doi: 10.1371/journal.pone.0115335 CrossRefPubMedPubMedCentralGoogle Scholar
  30. Tape KD, Lord R, Marshall H-P, Ruess RW (2010) Snow-mediated ptarmigan browsing and shrub expansion in Arctic Alaska. Ecoscience 17:186–193. doi: 10.2980/17-2-3323 CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  31. Virtanen R, Parviainen J, Henttonen H (2002) Winter grazing by the Norwegian lemming (Lemmus lemmus) at Kilpisjärvi (NW Finnish Lapland) during a moderate population peak. Ann Zool Fenn 39:335–341Google Scholar
  32. West GC, Meng MS (1966) Nutrition of willow ptarmigan in northern Alaska. Auk 83:603–615. doi: 10.2307/4083152 CrossRefGoogle Scholar

Copyright information

© Springer-Verlag GmbH Germany 2017

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Department of Biology and Centre d’études nordiquesUniversité LavalQuébecCanada
  2. 2.Canada Research Chair on Northern Biodiversity and Centre d’études nordiquesUniversité du Québec à RimouskiRimouskiCanada

Personalised recommendations