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Demography of two lemming species on Bylot Island, Nunavut, Canada

Abstract

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.

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Acknowledgments

We thank Nicolas Ouellet, Nicolas Lecomte, Marie-Hélène Dickey and Maude Graham-Sauvé for their help in the field, Louis-Paul Rivest for his help with statistical analyses and Daniel Fortin, Steeve Côté and Olivier Gilg for their comments on an earlier version of the manuscript. Funding was provided by grants from the Natural Sciences and Engineering Research Council of Canada to G. Gauthier, the Fonds québécois pour la nature et les technologies, the Canadian Network of Centres of Excellence ArcticNet, the Northern Ecosystem Initiative (Environment Canada), the Arctic Goose Joint Venture (Canadian Wildlife Service), the Canada Foundation for Innovation to D. Berteaux, and Indian and Northern Affairs Canada. Logistic supports were generously provided by the Polar Continental Shelf Program, Natural Resources Canada. We are indebted to the Pond Inlet Hunter and Trapper Association (Nunavut Territory) and to Parks Canada for allowing us to work on Bylot Island. The manipulations of this study were approved by the Committee for Animal Protection of Université Laval and conducted under research permits issued by Parks Canada. This is Polar Continental Shelf Program contribution no 048-09.

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Correspondence to Gilles Gauthier.

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Gruyer, N., Gauthier, G. & Berteaux, D. Demography of two lemming species on Bylot Island, Nunavut, Canada. Polar Biol 33, 725–736 (2010). https://doi.org/10.1007/s00300-009-0746-7

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Keywords

  • Capture-mark-recapture
  • Population dynamic
  • Population cycle
  • Population density
  • Survival
  • Reproduction
  • Small mammals