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Estimating population parameters in a threatened arctic fox population using molecular tracking and traditional field methods
Stockholm University, Faculty of Science, Department of Zoology.
Stockholm University, Faculty of Science, Department of Zoology.ORCID iD: 0000-0002-9707-5206
Stockholm University, Faculty of Science, Department of Zoology.ORCID iD: 0000-0001-5124-2534
Stockholm University, Faculty of Science, Department of Zoology.
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2008 (English)In: Animal Conservation, ISSN 1469-1795, Vol. 11, no 4, 330-338 p.Article in journal (Refereed) Published
Abstract [en]

Comprehensive population parameter data are useful for assessing effective conservation actions. The Fennoscandian arctic fox Alopex lagopus is critically endangered and the population size is estimated at 120 individuals that are fragmented into four isolated populations. Here, we use molecular tracking and visual observations to estimate population size and survival in one of the populations on the Swedish mountain tundra during a year of low food availability. We collected 98 arctic fox faecal samples during the winter of 2006 and recorded visual observations of ear-tagged individuals during the summer of 2005 and 2006. The faecal samples were analysed for variation in nine microsatellite loci and matched to the genetic profiles of previously ear-tagged individuals from 2001 to 2005. During winter 2006, the minimum number alive was 12 individuals using visual observations, 30 using molecular tracking and 36 by combining the datasets. Population size was estimated through mark–recapture for the molecular tracking and visual observation datasets and through rarefaction analyses for molecular tracking data. The mark–recapture estimate for visual observations was uninformative due to the large confidence interval (CI) (i.e. 6–212 individuals). Based on the molecular tracking dataset combined with the minimum number alive for visual observations and molecular tracking, we concluded a consensus population size of 36–55 individuals. We also estimated the age-specific finite survival rate during 1 year (July 2005 to July 2006) by combining molecular tracking with visual observations. Juvenile survival on a yearly basis was 0.08 (95% CI 0.02–0.18) while adults had a survival of 0.59 (95% CI 0.39–0.82). Juveniles displayed a lower survival than the adults during autumn (P<0.01) whereas no age-specific survival difference during spring was found. The risk of negative effects due to the small population size and low juvenile survival is accordingly considerable.

Place, publisher, year, edition, pages
Wiley-Blackwell, 2008. Vol. 11, no 4, 330-338 p.
Keyword [en]
Alopex lagopus, management, molecular tracking, mark–recapture, rarefaction, survival, conservation
National Category
URN: urn:nbn:se:su:diva-14284DOI: 10.1111/j.1469-1795.2008.00188.xISI: 000257987100013OAI: diva2:180804
Available from: 2008-08-14 Created: 2008-08-14 Last updated: 2014-10-28Bibliographically approved
In thesis
1. To survive and reproduce in a cyclic environment – demography and conservation of the Arctic fox in Scandinavia
Open this publication in new window or tab >>To survive and reproduce in a cyclic environment – demography and conservation of the Arctic fox in Scandinavia
2013 (English)Doctoral thesis, comprehensive summary (Other academic)
Abstract [en]

This thesis concerns the conservation and life history of the Arctic fox (Vulpes lagopus) in Scandinavia. The Arctic fox was historically a widely distributed species in the Scandinavian mountain tundra with a population size of approximately 10 000 individuals during years with high resource availability, i.e. rodent peaks. However, due to over-harvest in the end of the 19th century, the population numbers declined to a few hundred individuals. Although legally protected for more than 80 years, the population has remained small. The main causes of the non-recovery have been attributed to irregularities in the lemming cycle and increased competitions with the larger red fox. 

Through conservation actions including red fox culling and supplementary feeding, the population has started to recover in parts of its former distribution range. The Arctic fox is highly adapted to the lemming cycle and determine whether to reproduce or not and adjust the litter size relation to small rodent phase in combination with food abundance. In the small rodent increase phase, females produce litters equal to the peak phase, despite higher food abundance in the later. This overproduction of cubs can be selected for through a higher juvenile survival and reproductive value of cubs born in the increase phase compared to the other phases. The most important component affecting the reproductive value seem to be the survival during the first year after birth. In the small rodent increase phase 32% of the cubs survives their first year compared to 9% in the decrease phase. The Arctic fox in Scandinavia constitute an example of how a species can adapt their reproductive strategy to a fluctuating environment by adjustment of the reproduction.

Place, publisher, year, edition, pages
Stockholm: Department of Zoology, Stockholm University, 2013. 31 p.
Conservation, life-history, Alopex lagopus, survival
National Category
Research subject
Animal Ecology
urn:nbn:se:su:diva-87404 (URN)978-91-7447-647-7 (ISBN)
Public defence
2013-04-12, Magnélisalen, Kemiska övningslaboratoriet, Svante Arrhenius väg 16 B, Stockholm, 13:00 (English)

At the time of the doctoral defence the following papers were unpublished and had a status as follows: Paper 4: Accepted manuscript; Paper 5: Manuscript.

Available from: 2013-03-21 Created: 2013-02-05 Last updated: 2013-03-04Bibliographically approved

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Meijer, TomasNorén, KarinHellström, PeterDalén, LoveAngerbjörn, Anders
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