Arctic rodents, such as lemmings and voles, are an important component of the tundra ecosystem. They are prey to many predators, both avian (owls, hawks, jaegers, falcons, gulls) and terrestrial (foxes, wolves and weasels). Populations of lemmings and voles are known to follow 3 to 5-year abundance cycles in many areas. Factors like food limitation, predation and inter-specific competition have been suggested to explain these cyclic fluctuations. In some areas, such as eastern Greenland and some parts of Scandinavia, arctic rodent cycles have been disrupted, possibly due to changes in snow cover triggered by climate change. The collapse of arctic rodent populations could have major effects on the entire tundra food web. Further research is needed to fully understand the interactions between these important prey species, their predators and climate change in the Arctic.
Arctic rodents have been identified as a key component to monitor by the Circumpolar Biodiversity Monitoring Program, an initiative of the Conservation of Arctic Flora and Fauna, in order to document the general health of the tundra arctic esosystem (Christensen et al. 2013 ). In a recent review, Ehrich et al. (in preparation) identified 49 sites across the circumpolar tundra biome where lemming populations have been monitored in recent years, including 15 in North America. We here present the sites where arctic rodents are monitored in the tundra biome of North America, as well as some advices on how to implement such monitoring programs and archive the data.
|Barrow, AK (2 sites)||71.290||-156.640|
|Herschel Island, YT||69.567||-138.900|
|Tuktut National Park, NWT||68.893||-122.839|
|Daring Lake, NWT||65.867||-111.533|
|Walker Bay, NU||68.350||-108.083|
|Karrak Lake, NU||67.233||-100.250|
|Rankin Inlet, NU||62.810||-92.099|
|Aulavik National Park, NWT||73.226||-119.591|
|Bylot Island, NU||73.133||-80.000|
|East Bay, NU||63.983||-81.667|
|Site d'étude||Période de suivi||Espèce présente||Chercheur||Information de contact|
|Barrow (Utgiaģvik)||2004-2017+||Lemmus trimucronatus
|Richard B Lanctot & Sarah T. Saalfeldfirstname.lastname@example.org
|YUKON TERRITORY, CANADA|
|Charles J. Krebs et email@example.com|
|Herschel Island||2007-2010||Lemmus trimucromatus
|Charles J. Krebs et firstname.lastname@example.org|
|NORTHWEST TERRITORIES, CANADA|
|Tuktut National Park||2011-2017+||Lemmus trimucronatus
|Daring Lake||1995-2017+||Myodes rutilus
|Aulavik National Park||1999-2017+||Lemmus trimucronatus
|Walker Bay||1990-2017||Dicrostonyx groenlandicus
|Charles J. Krebs & Douglas W. Morrisemail@example.com
|Karrak Lake||1994-2017+||Lemmus trimucronatus
|Ray Alisauskas & Dana Kellettfirstname.lastname@example.org|
|Rankin Inlet||2008-2017||Dicrostonyx groenlandicus
|Alastair Franke & Kevin Hakshawemail@example.com|
|Alert||1998-2008||Dicrostonyx groenlandicus||Guy Morrison & Jean-Rémi Julien|
|Bylot Island||1993-2017+||Lemmus trimucronatus
|Nicolas Lecomte & Marie-Andrée Girouxfirstname.lastname@example.org
|East Bay||1999-2017+||Dicrostonyx groenlandicus||Paul Smithemail@example.com|
|Churchill||1994-1997, 2010-2017+||Myodes gapperi||James D. Rothfirstname.lastname@example.org|
Based on their extensive field experience based on more than 25 years of monitoring lemmings at the Bylot Island field station, this research team has produced in 2015 a manual describing field methods to sample small mammal abundance in the Arctic.
As a follow up of this work, they also produced a second manual in 2018 describing in details the statistical methods to use when analysing field data collected on small mammals.
Finally, using the long term datasets collected on Bylot Island, they also conducted statistical analyses to see how well small mammal abundance estimates obtained with various methods (live or snap trapping, burrow, faeces or winter nest counts, and incidental observations) correlate with each other. They also determined how biases and precisions of estimates obtained with various monitoring methods changed with sampling effort and lemming densities, and provided recommendations for optimal sampling effort. This work was published in 2018 in Ecosphere, an open access journal.
The Government of the Northwest Territories has also produced a few documents with useful information and recommended procedures for small mammals monitoring:
In order to better understand Arctic rodents and their cyclic abundance in North America, we encourage researchers to give public access to their datasets. The Centre d’études nordiques offers researchers the possibility to share their data online using the Nordicana D collection. Data are published in special issues indexed via an assigned Digital Object Identifier (DOI) which can then be used to cite those datasets as online publications.
Lemming monitoring on Bylot Island: DOI: 10.5885/45400AW-9891BD76704C4CE2
A database is currently being developed to help researchers archive their data for better management. This tool will be freely available to download and use. Further details will be posted here when it becomes available.
Saalfeld, S.T. & R.B. Lanctot. 2015. Conservative and opportunistic settlement strategies in Arctic-breeding shorebirds. The Auk 132: 212-234.
Bilodeau, F., D. Reid, G. Gauthier, C.J. Krebs, D. Berteaux & A. Kenney. 2013. Demographic response of tundra small mammals to a snow fencing experiment. Oikos 122:1167-1176.
Krebs, C.J., D.G. Reid, A.J. Kenney & S. Gilbert. 2011. Fluctuations in lemming populations in north Yukon, Canada, 2007–2010. Canadian Journal of Zoology 89:297-306.
Reid, D.G., F. Bilodeau, C.J. Krebs, G. Gauthier, A.J. Kenney, B.S. Gilbert, M.C.-Y. Leung, D. Duchesne & E.J. Hofer. 2012. Lemming winter habitat choice: a snow-fencing experiment. Oecologia 168: 935-946.
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Samelius G., R.T. Alisauskas & S. Larivière. 2011. Seasonal pulses of migratory prey and annual variation in small mammal abundance affect abundance and reproduction by arctic foxes. Polar Biology 34: 1475-1484.
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Roth, J.D. 2002. Temporal variability in Arctic fox diet as reflected in stable-carbon isotopes; the importance of sea ice. Oecologia 133:70-77.
Jaffré, M., A. Franke, A. Anctil, P. Galipeau, E. Hedlin, V. Lamarre, V. L’Hérault, L. Nikolaiczuk, K. Peck, B. Robinson & J. Bêty. 2015. Écologie de la reproduction du faucon pèlerin au Nunavut. Naturaliste Canadien 139:54-64.
Julien, J.R., G. Gauthier, R.I.G. Morrison & J. Bêty. 2013. Survival rate of the long-tailed jaeger (Stercorarius longicaudus) at Alert, Ellesmere Island, Nunavut. Condor 115:543-550.
Duchesne, D., G. Gauthier & D. Berteaux. 2011. Habitat selection, reproduction and predation of wintering lemmings in the Arctic. Oecologia 167:967-980.
Fauteux, D., G. Gauthier & D. Berteaux. 2015. Seasonal demography of a cyclic lemming population in the Canadian Arctic. Journal of Animal Ecology 84:1412-1422.
Fauteux, D., G. Gauthier & D. Berteaux. 2016. Top-down limitation of lemmings revealed by experimental reduction of predators. Ecology 97:3231-3241.
Gruyer, N., G. Gauthier & D. Berteaux. 2008. Cyclic dynamics of sympatric lemming populations on Bylot Island, Nunavut, Canada. Canadian Journal of Zoology 86:910–917.