, Volume 174, Issue 2, pp 403–412 | Cite as

Landscapes of fear or competition? Predation did not alter habitat choice by Arctic rodents

  • Angélique Dupuch
  • Douglas W. Morris
  • Som B. Ale
  • Deborah J. Wilson
  • Debra E. Moore
Behavioral ecology - Original research


In systems where predation plays a key role in the dynamics of prey populations, such as in Arctic rodents, it is reasonable to assume that differential patterns of habitat use by prey species represent adaptive responses to spatial variation in predation. However, habitat selection by collared (Dicrostonyx groenlandicus) and brown (Lemmus trimucronatus) lemmings depends on intra- and inter-specific densities, and there has been little agreement on the respective influences of food abundance, predators, and competition for habitat on lemming dynamics. Thus, we investigated whether predation affected selection of sedge-meadow versus upland tundra by collared lemmings in the central Canadian Arctic. We first controlled for the effects of competition on lemming habitat selection. We then searched for an additional signal of predation by comparing habitat selection patterns between 12 control plots and one large grid where lemmings were protected from predators by fencing in 1996 and 1997, but not during 5 subsequent years when we monitored habitat use in the grid as well as in the control plots. Dicrostonyx used upland preferentially over meadows and was more numerous in 1996 and 2011 than in other sample years. Lemmus was also more abundant in 1996 than in subsequent years, but its abundance was too low in the exclosure to assess whether exclusion of predators influenced its habitat selection. Contrary to the effects of competition, predation had a negligible impact on the spatial dynamics of Dicrostonyx, at least during summer. These results suggest that any differences in predation risk between the two habitats have little direct influence on the temporal dynamics of Dicrostonyx even if induced through predator–prey cycles.


Arctic tundra Dicrostonyx Habitat selection Isodar Lemmus 



We thank Canada’s International Polar Year program Arctic Wildlife Observatories Linking Vulnerable EcoSystems, the Natural Sciences and Engineering Research Council, the Department of Indian and Northern Affairs, the Northern Scientific Training Program, and the Polar Continental Shelf Project (PCSP, Natural Resources Canada), for financial and logistical support. We also thank Lakehead University’s Northern Studies Committee and Canada’s Summer Career Placements program for student support, the Government of Nunavut for permission and facilities to conduct this research, and anonymous reviewers for helpful comments. Our tests of predation’s effects on lemming habitat selection would have been impossible without the assistance and cooperation of colleagues R. Boonstra, R. Bromley, M. Dumond, G. Gauthier, D. Reid, S. Sather, and C. Krebs and many friends who have supported and worked with us in northern Canada. We thank you.


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Copyright information

© Springer-Verlag Berlin Heidelberg 2013

Authors and Affiliations

  • Angélique Dupuch
    • 1
  • Douglas W. Morris
    • 2
  • Som B. Ale
    • 3
  • Deborah J. Wilson
    • 4
  • Debra E. Moore
    • 5
  1. 1.Institut des Sciences de la Forêt TempéréeUniversité du Québec en Outaouais RiponCanada
  2. 2.Department of BiologyLakehead UniversityThunder BayCanada
  3. 3.Department of Biological Sciences (M/C 066)University of Illinois at ChicagoChicagoUSA
  4. 4.Landcare ResearchDunedinNew Zealand
  5. 5.DuluthUSA

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