Advertisement

Polar Biology

, Volume 41, Issue 5, pp 855–864 | Cite as

Climate influences body condition and synchrony of barren-ground caribou abundance in Northern Canada

  • Conor D. Mallory
  • Mitch W. Campbell
  • Mark S. Boyce
Original Paper

Abstract

Large-scale climate oscillations may contribute to the observed dramatic fluctuations and regional synchrony in Rangifer abundance. Here, we test this hypothesis using long-term abundance and physical condition datasets to investigate the relationships between broad climate patterns, summer-range quality, and population dynamics in three barren-ground caribou herds in northern Canada. We found that positive intensities of the Arctic Oscillation (AO) in the summer were associated with warmer temperatures, improved growing conditions for vegetation, and better body condition of caribou. Over this same period, the body condition of female caribou was positively related to fecundity. We further identified that population trajectories of caribou herds followed the direction of the AO: herds increased under positive AO intensity, and decreased under negative AO intensity. Our findings suggest that the AO influences barren-ground caribou population dynamics through effects on summer-range quality, caribou physical condition, and herd productivity.

Keywords

Rangifer tarandus Climate patterns Population dynamics Arctic Oscillation Caribou 

Notes

Acknowledgements

The Natural Sciences and Engineering Research Council of Canada and the Government of Nunavut provided funding for this study. We thank D. Russell and the CARMA network for producing and providing the caribou range climate database. We acknowledge and thank the many researchers whose work made our study possible. We thank M. Scrafford, M. Mallory, and the anonymous reviewers who provided comments on earlier versions of this manuscript.

References

  1. Aanes R, Sæther B-E, Smith FM, Cooper EJ, Wookey PA, Øritslandet NA (2002) The Arctic Oscillation predicts effects of climate change in two trophic levels in a high-arctic ecosystem. Ecol Lett 5:445–453CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  2. Adamczewski JZ, Gates CC, Soutar BM, Hudson RJ (1986) Limiting effects of snow on seasonal habitat use and diets of caribou (Rangifer tarandus groenlandicus) on Coats Island, Northwest Territories, Canada. Can J Zool 66:1986–1996CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  3. Adamczewski JZ, Gates CC, Hudson RJ (1987) Fat distribution and indices of carcass composition in Coats Island caribou (Rangifer tarandus groenlandicus). Can J Zool 65:368–374CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  4. Adamczewski JZ, Gunn A, Poole KG, Hall A, Nishi J, Boulanger J (2015) What happened to the Beverly caribou herd after 1994? Arctic 68:407–421CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  5. Albon SD et al (2017) Contrasting effects of summer and winter warming on body mass explain population dynamics in a food-limited Arctic herbivore. Glob Change Biol 23:1374–1389CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  6. Banfield AWF (1954) Preliminary investigations of the barren-ground caribou. Part I. Former and present distribution, migrations, and status. Can Wildl Serv Wildlife Management Bulletin Series 1, No. 10AGoogle Scholar
  7. Bergerud AT (1996) Evolving perspectives on caribou population dynamics, have we got it right yet? Rangifer 16:95–116CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  8. Bergerud AT, Ballard WB (1988) Wolf predation on caribou: the Nelchina herd case history, a different interpretation. J Wildl Manage 52:344–357CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  9. Boulanger J (2015) Interim report: estimates of breeding females and herd size from the 2015 Bathurst calving ground surveyGoogle Scholar
  10. Boulanger J, Gunn A, Azamczewski JZ, Croft B (2011) A data-driven demographic model to explore the decline of the Bathurst caribou herd. J Wildl Manage 75:883–896CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  11. Boulanger J, Croft B, Adamczewski JZ (2014) An estimate of breeding females and analyses of demographics for the Bathurst Herd of barren-ground caribou: 2012 calving ground photographic survey. File report no. 142. Dept Env and Nat Res, Gov of NWT. YellowknifeGoogle Scholar
  12. Callaghan TV et al (2004) Key findings and extended summaries. Ambio 33:386–392CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
  13. Cameron RD, Smith WT, Fancy SF, Gerhart KL, White RG (1993) Calving success of female caribou in relation to body weight. Can J Zool 71:480–486CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  14. Campbell MW, Nishi J, Boulanger J (2010) A calving ground photo survey of the Qamanirjuaq migratory barren-ground caribou (Rangifer tarandus groenlandicus) population—June 2008. Gov of Nunavut Dept of Env technical report series no. 01-2010Google Scholar
  15. Campbell MW, Boulanger J, Lee DS, Dumond M, McPherson J (2012) Calving ground abundance estimates of the Beverly and Ahiak Subpopulations of Barren-Ground Caribou (Rangifer tarandus groenlandicus)—June 2011. Gov of Nunavut Dept of Env technical report series no. 03-2012Google Scholar
  16. Campbell MW, Boulanger J, Lee DS (2016) Estimating abundance of the Qamanirjuaq Mainland Migratory Barren-Ground Caribou Subpopulation—June 2014. Gov of Nunavut Dept of Env technical report series no. 01-2016Google Scholar
  17. Cebrian MR, Kielland K, Finstad G (2008) Forage quality and reindeer productivity: multiplier effects amplified by climate change. Arct Antarct Alp Res 40:48–54CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  18. Chan K-S, Mysterud A, Øritsland NA, Severinsen T, Stenseth NC (2005) Continuous and discrete extreme climatic events affecting the dynamics of a high-arctic reindeer population. Oecologia 145:556–563CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
  19. Chapin FS III, Shaver GR (1985) Individualistic growth response of tundra plant species to environmental manipulations in the field. Ecology 66:564–576CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  20. Côté SD et al (2012) Caribou herd dynamics: impacts of climate change on traditional and sport harvesting. In: Allard M, Lemay M (eds) Nunavik and Nunatsiavut: From science to policy. An Integrated Regional Impact Study (IRIS) of climate change and modernization. ArcticNet Inc., Quebec, pp 249–269Google Scholar
  21. Couturier S, Côté SD, Otto RD, Weladji RB, Huot J (2009) Variation in calf body mass in migratory caribou: the role of habitat, climate, and movements. J Mammal 90:442–452CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  22. Crête M, Huot J (1993) Regulation of a large herd of migratory caribou: summer nutrition affects calf growth and body reserves of dams. Can J Zool 71:2291–2296CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  23. Fauchald P, Park T, Tømmervik H, Myneni R, Hausner VH (2017) Arctic greening from warming promotes declines in caribou populations. Sci Adv 3:e1601365CrossRefPubMedPubMedCentralGoogle Scholar
  24. Forchhammer MC, Post E, Stenseth NC, Boertmann DM (2002) Long-term responses in arctic ungulate dynamics to changes in climatic and trophic processes. Popul Ecol 44:113–120CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  25. Frost GV, Epstein HE (2014) Tall shrub and tree expansion in Siberian tundra ecotones since the 1960s. Glob Change Biol 20:1264–1277CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  26. Gerhart KL, White RG, Cameron RD, Russell DE (1996) Body composition and nutrient reserves of arctic caribou. Can J Zool 74:136–146CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  27. Gerhart KL, Russell DE, Van DeWetering D, White RG, Cameron RD (1997) Pregnancy of adult caribou (Rangifer tarandus): evidence for lactational infertility. J Zool 242:17–30CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  28. Griffith B et al. (2002) Section 3: the porcupine caribou herd. Biological Science Report USGS/BRD/BSR-2002-0001 837. US Geological Survey, Biological Resources DivisionGoogle Scholar
  29. Gunn A (2003) Voles, lemmings and caribou—population cycles revisited? Rangifer 23:105–111CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  30. Gunn A, Dragon J, Nishi J (1996) Bathurst calving ground survey 1996. Dept of Res, Wildl and Econ Dev, Gov of NWT, Yellowknife, pp 30–46Google Scholar
  31. Gunn A, Russell D, Eamer J (2011) Northern caribou population trends in Canada. Canadian biodiversity: ecosystem status and trends 2010, technical thematic report no. 10. Canadian Councils of Resource Ministers, OttawaGoogle Scholar
  32. Hagemoen RIM, Reimers E (2002) Reindeer summer activity pattern in relation to weather and insect harassment. J Anim Ecol 71:883–892CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  33. Heard DC, Williams TM (1991a) Appendix C. Bathurst calving ground survey, June 1986. In: Gunn A et al. (eds) Bathurst calving ground survey 1996. Dept of Res, Wildl and Econ Dev, Gov of NWT, Yellowknife, pp 30–46Google Scholar
  34. Heard DC, Williams TM (1991b) Appendix D. Bathurst calving ground survey, June 1990. In: Gunn A et al. (eds) Bathurst calving ground survey 1996. Dept of Res, Wildl and Econ Dev, Gov of NWT, Yellowknife, pp 47–62Google Scholar
  35. Hegel TM, Mysterud A, Ergon T, Loe LE, Huettmann F, Stenseth NC (2010) Seasonal effects of Pacific-based climate on recruitment in a predator-limited large herbivore. J Anim Ecol 79:471–482CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
  36. Helle T, Tarvainen L (1984) Effects of insect harassment on weight gain and survival in reindeer calves. Rangifer 4:24–27CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  37. Hughes J, Albon SD, Irvine RJ, Woodin S (2009) Is there a cost of parasites to caribou? Parasitology 136:253–265CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
  38. Hurrell JW (1995) Decadal trends in the North Atlantic Oscillation: regional temperatures and precipitation. Science 269:676–679CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
  39. Joly K, Klein DR, Verbyla DL, Rupp TS, Chapin FS III (2011) Linkages between large-scale climate patterns and the dynamics of Arctic caribou populations. Ecography 34:345–352CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  40. Klein DR (1991) Limiting factors in caribou population ecology. Rangifer 7:30–35CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  41. Kutz SJ et al (2013) Invasion, establishment, and range expansion of two parasitic nematodes in the Canadian Arctic. Glob Change Biol 19:3254–3262Google Scholar
  42. Lenart EA, Bowyer RT, Ver Hoef J, Ruess RW (2002) Climate change and caribou: effects of summer weather on forage. Can J Zool 80:664–678CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  43. Liebhold A, Koenig WD, Bjørnstad ON (2004) Spatial synchrony in population dynamics. Annu Rev Ecol Evol Syst 35:467–490CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  44. Mahoney SP, Schaefer JA (2002) Changes in demography and migration of Newfoundland caribou. J Mammal 83:957–963CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  45. Mallory CD, Boyce MS (2018) Observed and predicted effects of climate change on Arctic caribou and reindeer. Environ Rev.  https://doi.org/10.1139/er-2017-0032 Google Scholar
  46. Manseau M, Huot J, Crete M (1996) Effects of summer grazing by caribou on composition and productivity of vegetation: community and landscape level. J Ecol 84:503–513CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  47. Mantua NJ, Hare SR, Zhang Y, Wallace JM, Francis RC (1997) A Pacific interdecadal climate oscillation with impacts on salmon production. Bull Am Meteorol Soc 78:1069–1079CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  48. Messier F, Huot J, Le Henaff D, Luttich S (1988) Demography of the George River Caribou Herd: evidence of population regulation by forage exploitation and range expansion. Arctic 41:279–287CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  49. Moran PAP (1953) The statistical analysis of the Canadian lynx cycle. II. Synchronization and meteorology. Aust J Zool 1:291–298CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  50. Myers-Smith IH et al (2011) Shrub expansion in tundra ecosystems: dynamics, impacts and research priorities. Environ Res Lett 6:045509CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  51. Nagy JA, Johnson DL, Larter NC, Campbell MW, Derocher AE, Kelly A, Dumond M, Allaire D, Croft B (2011) Subpopulation structure of caribou (Rangifer tarandus L.) in arctic and subarctic Canada. Ecol Appl 21:2334–2348CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
  52. Post E, Forchhammer MC (2002) Synchronization of animal population dynamics by large-scale climate. Nature 420:168–171CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
  53. Post E, Stenseth NC (1999) Climatic variability, plant phenology, and northern ungulates. Ecology 80:1322–1339CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  54. Rachlow JL, Bowyer RT (1998) Habitat selection by Dall’s sheep (Ovis dalli): maternal trade-offs. J Zool 245:457–465CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  55. Ranta E, Kaitala V, Lindstrӧm J, Helle E (1997) The Moran effect and synchrony in population dynamics. Oikos 78:136–142CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  56. Reimers E (1983) Growth rate and body size differences in Rangifer: a study of cause and effect. Rangifer 3:3–15CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  57. Rickbeil GJM, Coops NC, Adamczewski JZ (2015) The grazing impacts of four barren ground caribou herds (Rangifer tarandus groenlandicus) on their summer ranges: an application of archived remotely sensed vegetation productivity data. Remote Sens Environ 164:314–323CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  58. Rienecker MM et al (2011) MERRA: NASA’s modern-era retrospective analysis for research and applications. J Clim 24:3624–3648CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  59. Russell DE, Whitfield PH, Cai J, Gunn A, White RG, Poole K (2013) CARMA’s MERRA-based caribou range climate database. Rangifer 33:145–152CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  60. Sæther B-E (1997) Environmental stochasticity and population dynamics of large herbivores: a search for mechanisms. Trends Ecol Evol 12:143–149CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
  61. Sturm M, Racine C, Tape K (2001) Climate change: increasing shrub abundance in the Arctic. Nature 411:546–547CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
  62. R Core Team (2016) R: a language and environment for statistical computing. R Foundation for Statistical Computing, Vienna. https://www.R-project.org/
  63. Thomas DC, Kiliaan HPL (1998a) Fire-caribou relationships: (I) physical characteristics of the Beverly herd, 1980–1987. Tech rep series no. 309. Can Wildl Serv, Prairie and Northern RegGoogle Scholar
  64. Thomas DC, Kiliaan HPL (1998b) Fire-caribou relationships: (II) fecundity and physical condition of the Beverly herd, 1980–1987. Tech rep series no. 310. Can Wildl Serv, Prairie and Northern RegGoogle Scholar
  65. Thompson DP, Barboza PS (2014) Nutritional implications of increased shrub cover for caribou (Rangifer tarandus) in the Arctic. Can J Zool 92:339–351CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  66. Thompson DWJ, Wallace JM (1998) The Arctic Oscillation signature in the wintertime geopotential height and temperature fields. Geophys Res Lett 25:1297–1300CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  67. Thompson DWJ, Wallace JM, Hegerl GC (2000) Annular modes in the extratropical circulation. Part II: trends*. J Clim 13:1018–1036CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  68. Turunen M, Soppela P, Kinnunen H, Sutinen M-L, Martz M (2009) Does climate change influence the availability and quality of reindeer forage plants? Polar Biol 32:813–832CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  69. Tveraa T, Stien A, Bårdsen B-J, Fauchald P (2013) Population densities, vegetation green-up, and plant productivity: impacts on reproductive success and juvenile body mass in reindeer. PLoS ONE 8(2):e56450CrossRefPubMedPubMedCentralGoogle Scholar
  70. Van der Wal R, Stien A (2014) High-arctic plants like it hot: a long-term investigation of between-year variability in plant biomass. Ecology 95:3414–3427CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  71. Vors LS, Boyce MS (2009) Global declines of caribou and reindeer. Glob Change Biol 15:2626–2633CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  72. Weladji RB, Holand Ø, Almøy T (2003) Use of climatic data to assess the effect of insect harassment on the autumn weight of reindeer (Rangifer tarandus) calves. J Zool 260:79–85CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  73. Witter LA, Johnson CJ, Croft B, Gunn A, Gillingham MP (2012) Behavioural trade-offs in response to external stimuli: time allocation of an Arctic ungulate during varying intensities of harassment by parasitic flies. J Anim Ecol 81:284–295CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
  74. Zalatan R (2006) The relation between climate and abundance cycles in barren-ground caribou herds of the Northwest Territories, Canada. Thesis, University of British ColumbiaGoogle Scholar
  75. Zamin TJ, Côté SD, Tremblay J-P, Grogan P (2017) Experimental warming alters migratory caribou forage quality. Ecol Appl.  https://doi.org/10.1002/eap.1590 PubMedGoogle Scholar

Copyright information

© Springer-Verlag GmbH Germany, part of Springer Nature 2018

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Department of Biological SciencesUniversity of AlbertaEdmontonCanada
  2. 2.Department of EnvironmentGovernment of NunavutArviatCanada

Personalised recommendations