Flexibility in a changing arctic food web: Can rough-legged buzzards cope with changing small rodent communities?
AuthorFufachev, Ivan A.; Ehrich, Dorothee; Sokolova, Natalia; Sokolov, Vasiliy A; Sokolov, Aleksandr A
Indirect effects of climate change are often mediated by trophic interactions and consequences for individual species depend on how they are tied into the local food web. Here we show how the response of demographic rates of an arctic bird of prey to fluctuations in small rodent abundance changed when small rodent community composition and dynamics changed, possibly under the effect of climate warming. We observed the breeding biology of rough‐legged buzzards (Buteo lagopus) at the Erkuta Tundra Monitoring Site in southern Yamal, low arctic Russia, for 19 years (1999–2017). At the same time, data on small rodent abundance were collected and information on buzzard diet was obtained from pellet dissection. The small rodent community experienced a shift from high‐amplitude cycles to dampened fluctuations paralleled with a change in species composition toward less lemmings and more voles. Buzzards clearly preferred lemmings as prey. Breeding density of buzzards was positively related to small rodent abundance, but the shift in small rodent community lead to lower numbers relative to small rodent abundance. At the same time, after the change in small rodent community, the average number of fledglings was higher relative to small rodent abundance than earlier. These results suggest that the buzzard population adapted to a certain degree to the changes in the major resource, although at the same time density declined. The documented flexibility in the short‐term response of demographic rates to changes in structure and dynamics of key food web components make it difficult to predict how complex food webs will be transformed in a warmer Arctic. The degree of plasticity of functional responses is indeed likely to vary between species and between regions, depending also on the local food web context.
CitationFufachev IA, Ehrich D, Sokolova N, Sokolov VA, Sokolov AA. Flexibility in a changing arctic food web: Can rough-legged buzzards cope with changing small rodent communities?. Global Change Biology. 2019;25(11):3669-3679
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