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Population-Wide Failure to Breed in the Clark's Nutcracker (Nucifraga columbiana).

Schaming TD - PLoS ONE (2015)

Bottom Line: Alternatively, the Clark's nutcrackers may have had such low body energy stores that they chose not to or were unable to breed.Breeding plasticity would allow Clark's nutcrackers to exploit an unpredictable environment.However, if large-scale mortality of whitebark pines is leading to an increase in the number of nonbreeding years, there could be serious population-level and ecosystem-wide consequences.

View Article: PubMed Central - PubMed

Affiliation: Department of Natural Resources, Cornell Lab of Ornithology, Cornell University, Ithaca, New York, United States of America.

ABSTRACT
In highly variable environments, conditions can be so stressful in some years that entire populations forgo reproduction in favor of higher likelihood of surviving to breed in future years. In two out of five years, Clark's nutcrackers (Nucifraga Columbiana) in the Greater Yellowstone Ecosystem exhibited population-wide failure to breed. Clark's nutcrackers at the study site experienced substantial interannual differences in food availability and weather conditions, and the two nonbreeding years corresponded with low whitebark pine (Pinus albicaulis) cone crops the previous autumn (≤ an average of 8 ± 2 cones per tree versus ≥ an average of 20 ± 2 cones per tree during breeding years) and high snowpack in early spring (≥ 61.2 ± 5.5 cm versus ≤ 51.9 ± 4.4 cm during breeding years). The average adult body condition index during the breeding season was significantly lower in 2011 (-1.5 ± 1.1), a nonbreeding year, as compared to 2012 (6.2 ± 2.0), a breeding year. The environmental cues available to the birds prior to breeding, specifically availability of cached whitebark pine seeds, may have allowed them to predict that breeding conditions would be poor, leading to the decision to skip breeding. Alternatively, the Clark's nutcrackers may have had such low body energy stores that they chose not to or were unable to breed. Breeding plasticity would allow Clark's nutcrackers to exploit an unpredictable environment. However, if large-scale mortality of whitebark pines is leading to an increase in the number of nonbreeding years, there could be serious population-level and ecosystem-wide consequences.

No MeSH data available.


Related in: MedlinePlus

Study area in the Greater Yellowstone Ecosystem.The study area is outlined in black. I spent the majority of time in the field trapping and radio tracking Clark’s nutcrackers, and hiking to and conducting occupancy surveys. The top inset map delineates the five trapping locations. The bottom inset map depicts the study area within the state of Wyoming. (OpenStreetMap basemap: http://www.openstreetmap.org/copyright [32].)
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pone.0123917.g001: Study area in the Greater Yellowstone Ecosystem.The study area is outlined in black. I spent the majority of time in the field trapping and radio tracking Clark’s nutcrackers, and hiking to and conducting occupancy surveys. The top inset map delineates the five trapping locations. The bottom inset map depicts the study area within the state of Wyoming. (OpenStreetMap basemap: http://www.openstreetmap.org/copyright [32].)

Mentions: I documented Clark’s nutcracker breeding activity between 2009 and 2013 in the Greater Yellowstone Ecosystem, primarily in Bridger Teton and Shoshone National Forests, and Grand Teton National Park (25,050 km2; bounded by 45°00’01” N north, 42°09’14” N south, 111°02’56”W west, and 108°42’55”W east; Fig 1). The forested habitat primarily consists of whitebark pine, limber pine, Douglas-fir (Pseudotsuga menziesii), lodgepole pine (Pinus contorta), Engelmann spruce (Picea englemannii), and subalpine fir (Abies lasiocarpa), intermixed with sagebrush (Artemesia tridentata)—grass open areas, high mountain meadows and rocky outcroppings.


Population-Wide Failure to Breed in the Clark's Nutcracker (Nucifraga columbiana).

Schaming TD - PLoS ONE (2015)

Study area in the Greater Yellowstone Ecosystem.The study area is outlined in black. I spent the majority of time in the field trapping and radio tracking Clark’s nutcrackers, and hiking to and conducting occupancy surveys. The top inset map delineates the five trapping locations. The bottom inset map depicts the study area within the state of Wyoming. (OpenStreetMap basemap: http://www.openstreetmap.org/copyright [32].)
© Copyright Policy
Related In: Results  -  Collection

License
Show All Figures
getmorefigures.php?uid=PMC4430254&req=5

pone.0123917.g001: Study area in the Greater Yellowstone Ecosystem.The study area is outlined in black. I spent the majority of time in the field trapping and radio tracking Clark’s nutcrackers, and hiking to and conducting occupancy surveys. The top inset map delineates the five trapping locations. The bottom inset map depicts the study area within the state of Wyoming. (OpenStreetMap basemap: http://www.openstreetmap.org/copyright [32].)
Mentions: I documented Clark’s nutcracker breeding activity between 2009 and 2013 in the Greater Yellowstone Ecosystem, primarily in Bridger Teton and Shoshone National Forests, and Grand Teton National Park (25,050 km2; bounded by 45°00’01” N north, 42°09’14” N south, 111°02’56”W west, and 108°42’55”W east; Fig 1). The forested habitat primarily consists of whitebark pine, limber pine, Douglas-fir (Pseudotsuga menziesii), lodgepole pine (Pinus contorta), Engelmann spruce (Picea englemannii), and subalpine fir (Abies lasiocarpa), intermixed with sagebrush (Artemesia tridentata)—grass open areas, high mountain meadows and rocky outcroppings.

Bottom Line: Alternatively, the Clark's nutcrackers may have had such low body energy stores that they chose not to or were unable to breed.Breeding plasticity would allow Clark's nutcrackers to exploit an unpredictable environment.However, if large-scale mortality of whitebark pines is leading to an increase in the number of nonbreeding years, there could be serious population-level and ecosystem-wide consequences.

View Article: PubMed Central - PubMed

Affiliation: Department of Natural Resources, Cornell Lab of Ornithology, Cornell University, Ithaca, New York, United States of America.

ABSTRACT
In highly variable environments, conditions can be so stressful in some years that entire populations forgo reproduction in favor of higher likelihood of surviving to breed in future years. In two out of five years, Clark's nutcrackers (Nucifraga Columbiana) in the Greater Yellowstone Ecosystem exhibited population-wide failure to breed. Clark's nutcrackers at the study site experienced substantial interannual differences in food availability and weather conditions, and the two nonbreeding years corresponded with low whitebark pine (Pinus albicaulis) cone crops the previous autumn (≤ an average of 8 ± 2 cones per tree versus ≥ an average of 20 ± 2 cones per tree during breeding years) and high snowpack in early spring (≥ 61.2 ± 5.5 cm versus ≤ 51.9 ± 4.4 cm during breeding years). The average adult body condition index during the breeding season was significantly lower in 2011 (-1.5 ± 1.1), a nonbreeding year, as compared to 2012 (6.2 ± 2.0), a breeding year. The environmental cues available to the birds prior to breeding, specifically availability of cached whitebark pine seeds, may have allowed them to predict that breeding conditions would be poor, leading to the decision to skip breeding. Alternatively, the Clark's nutcrackers may have had such low body energy stores that they chose not to or were unable to breed. Breeding plasticity would allow Clark's nutcrackers to exploit an unpredictable environment. However, if large-scale mortality of whitebark pines is leading to an increase in the number of nonbreeding years, there could be serious population-level and ecosystem-wide consequences.

No MeSH data available.


Related in: MedlinePlus