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Where lynx prevail, foxes will fail - limitation of a mesopredator in Eurasia
Stockholm University, Faculty of Science, Department of Zoology.ORCID iD: 0000-0002-8749-6111
Stockholm University, Faculty of Science, Department of Zoology.ORCID iD: 0000-0001-5496-4727
2013 (English)In: Global Ecology and Biogeography, ISSN 1466-822X, E-ISSN 1466-8238, Vol. 22, no 7, 868-877 p.Article in journal (Refereed) Published
Abstract [en]

Aim Climate change and loss of apex predators can affect ecosystem structure and function through modified limitation processes. We investigated, on a continental scale, whether mesopredator abundance is limited from the top down by large predators, as predicted by the mesopredator release hypothesis, or by bottom-up factors. The mesopredator in focus is the red fox Vulpes vulpes, a key predator in many ecosystems due to its strong effects on prey abundance. Location Europe and northern Asia. Methods Data on red fox density were compiled from published papers and reports. For each site, we collated presence-absence data on large carnivores (Lynx lynx, Canis lupus, Canisaureus) and remote sensing data for factors potentially related to bottom-up limitation (winter severity, summer temperature, human density, primary productivity, tree cover). The data were analysed through structural equation modelling. Results The presence of lynx had a direct negative effect on red foxes, suppressing fox abundance. Also winter severity had a negative effect on red fox abundance, and in Eurasia as a whole this effect was partially mediated through lynx. Within the lynx distribution range, winter severity was the only bottom-up factor significantly affecting red fox abundance. Outside the lynx distribution range, primary productivity, summer temperature and human density had a positive effect on red fox abundance. Main conclusions Our results show that apex predators can limit mesopredator abundance on a continental scale, thus supporting the mesopredator release hypothesis. Winter severity also affected red fox abundance, partially due to an interaction between lynx and winter conditions. On the continental scale a complex network of processes operates with varying effects depending on mediation processes. Our results imply that apex predators can have an important effect on ecosystem structure by limiting mesopredator abundance, and we suggest that apex predators may dampen increases in mesopredator abundance driven by global warming.

Place, publisher, year, edition, pages
2013. Vol. 22, no 7, 868-877 p.
Keyword [en]
Apex predators, Canis aureus, Canis lupus, interference competition, intraguild killing, Lynx lynx, piecewise SEM, productivity, Vulpes vulpes
National Category
Zoology Ecology
Research subject
Animal Ecology
Identifiers
URN: urn:nbn:se:su:diva-92118DOI: 10.1111/geb.12051ISI: 000320326600009OAI: oai:DiVA.org:su-92118DiVA: diva2:637794
Funder
Formas, 2008-702
Note

AuthorCount:3;

Available from: 2013-07-22 Created: 2013-07-19 Last updated: 2017-12-06Bibliographically approved
In thesis
1. Anthropogenic impact on predator guilds and ecosystem processes: Apex predator extinctions, land use and climate change
Open this publication in new window or tab >>Anthropogenic impact on predator guilds and ecosystem processes: Apex predator extinctions, land use and climate change
2014 (English)Doctoral thesis, comprehensive summary (Other academic)
Abstract [en]

Humans affect ecosystems by changing species compositions, landscape and climate. This thesis aims to increase our understanding of anthropogenic effects on mesopredator abundance due to changes in apex predator status, landscape and climate. I show that in Eurasia the abundance of a mesopredator, the red fox (Vulpes vulpes), is limited top-down by the Eurasian lynx (Lynx lynx) and bottom-up by winter severity. However, where lynx has been eradicated, fox abundance is instead related to bottom-factors such as cropland (paper I, II). Fox abundance was highest when croplands constituted 25% of the landscape (paper II). I also project red fox abundance in Sweden over the past 200 years and in future scenarios in relation to lynx density, land use and climate change. The projected fox abundance was highest in 1920, when lynx was eradicated and the proportion of cropland was 22%. In 2010, when lynx had recolonised, the projected fox abundance was lower than in 1920, but higher than in 1830. Future scenarios indicated that lynx abundance must increase in respond to climate change to keep fox at the same density as today. The results suggest a mesopredator release when lynx was eradicated, boosted by land use and climate change, and that changes in bottom-up factors can modify the relative strength of top-down factors (paper IV). From 1846-1922, lynx, wolverine (Gulo gulo) and grey wolf (Canis lupus) declined in Scandinavia due to persecution; however I show that the change in wolverine abundance was positively related to the changes in lynx and wolf abundance. This indicates that wolverine is subsidized by carrions from lynx and wolf kills rather than limited top-down by them (paper III). This thesis illustrates how mesopredator abundance is determined by a combination of top-down and bottom-up processes, and how anthropogenic impacts not only can change the structures of predator guilds, but also may modify top-down processes through changes in bottom-up factors.

Place, publisher, year, edition, pages
Stockholm: Department of Zoology, Stockholm University, 2014. 18 p.
Keyword
Mesopredators, apex predators, top-down, bottom-up, interspecific killing, red fox, Eurasian lynx, grey wolf, wolverine, productivity, winter severity, cropland
National Category
Zoology Ecology
Research subject
Animal Ecology
Identifiers
urn:nbn:se:su:diva-100720 (URN)978-91-7447-860-0 (ISBN)
Public defence
2014-03-21, Nordenskiöldsalen, Geovetenskapens hus, Svante Arrhenius väg 12, Stockholm, 13:00 (English)
Opponent
Supervisors
Note

At the time of the doctoral defense, the following papers were unpublished and had a status as follows: Paper 2: Submitted. Paper 3: Submitted. Paper 4: Manuscript.

 

Available from: 2014-02-27 Created: 2014-02-12 Last updated: 2017-06-29Bibliographically approved

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