Components of population growth for Arctic foxes at a large Arctic goose colony: the relative contributions of adult survival and recruitment
The abundance and distribution of animals often vary dramatically among years in Arctic environments. Such variation, in turn, is closely related to changes in food abundance and its effect on vital rates such as survival and recruitment. However, the relative importance of survival and recruitment to changes in population growth and how this varies with fluctuations in food abundance and climatic variation is poorly understood for most animals. The objective of this study was to examine how the relative importance of adult survival and recruitment to population change by Arctic foxes varies in relation to fluctuations in food abundance and climatic variation. Specifically, we used capture–recapture models to estimate how apparent adult survival and recruitment of Arctic foxes at a large Arctic goose colony varied in response to small mammal abundance, the numbers of two species of nesting geese and climate variation indexed by the Arctic Oscillation. Analyses of live capture data collected at Karrak Lake, Nunavut, Canada, from 2000 to 2015 showed that the population dynamics of Arctic foxes was driven largely by the pulsed dynamics in recruitment of foxes, whereas apparent survival of adult foxes was constant during the study. Recruitment fluctuated considerably among years and was correlated with fluctuations in small mammal abundance. Greater importance of recruitment to the population dynamics of Arctic foxes at our study site is characteristic of small and short-lived mammals.
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