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Caribou, water, and ice - fine-scale movements of a migratory arctic ungulate in the context of climate change.

Leblond M, St-Laurent MH, Côté SD - Mov Ecol (2016)

Bottom Line: Although ice phenology did not change significantly during our study, climate projections indicated that ice availability could decrease considerably before the end of the century, generating a ~28 % increase in distance travelled by caribou during the early spring and fall migrations.We demonstrated that ice availability influenced the movements of a migratory arctic ungulate.The long-term conservation of wide-ranging species will ultimately depend on our ability to identify the fine-scale behavioural reactions of individuals to broad-scale changes in climate and land use.

View Article: PubMed Central - PubMed

Affiliation: Caribou Ungava, Département de biologie, and Center for Northern Studies, Université Laval, 1045 avenue de la Médecine, Québec, QC G1V 0A6 Canada.

ABSTRACT

Background: Freshwater lakes and rivers of the Northern Hemisphere have been freezing increasingly later and thawing increasingly earlier during the last century. With reduced temporal periods during which ice conditions are favourable for locomotion, freshwater bodies could become impediments to the inter-patch movements, dispersion, or migration of terrestrial animals that use ice-covered lakes and rivers to move across their range. Studying the fine-scale responses of individuals to broad-scale changes in ice availability and phenology would help to understand how animals react to ongoing climate change, and contribute to the conservation and management of endangered species living in northern environments. Between 2007 and 2014, we equipped 96 migratory caribou Rangifer tarandus caribou from the Rivière-aux-Feuilles herd in northern Québec (Canada) with GPS telemetry collars and studied their space use. We measured contemporary (digital MODIS maps updated every 8 days, 2000-2014) and historical (annual observations, 1947-1985) variations in freshwater-ice availability and evaluated the concurrent responses of caribou to these changes.

Results: Ice had a positive influence on caribou movement rates and directionality, and caribou selected ice and avoided water when moving across or in the vicinity of large water bodies. When ice was unavailable, caribou rarely swam across (6 % of crossings) and frequently circumvented water bodies for several km. Although ice phenology did not change significantly during our study, climate projections indicated that ice availability could decrease considerably before the end of the century, generating a ~28 % increase in distance travelled by caribou during the early spring and fall migrations.

Conclusions: We demonstrated that ice availability influenced the movements of a migratory arctic ungulate. Warmer air temperatures in the Arctic will undoubtedly modify the phenology of ice forming on freshwater lakes and rivers. If migratory caribou are unable to adjust the timing of their migrations, they could be forced to circumvent unfrozen water bodies more frequently and over broader areas, which may increase the distance, time, and energy they use to reach wintering areas. The long-term conservation of wide-ranging species will ultimately depend on our ability to identify the fine-scale behavioural reactions of individuals to broad-scale changes in climate and land use.

No MeSH data available.


Related in: MedlinePlus

Relationship between (a) advance in breakup or (b) delay in freeze dates and the proportion of possible ice crossings. Ice crossings by migratory caribou were observed between 2007 and 2014, whereas changes in breakup or freeze dates (from 1 to 30 days) represent potential consequences of warming air temperatures in the Arctic during the next 25–50 years (2041–2070 horizon). Projections of future freeze and breakup dates are taken from (i) Brown and Duguay [19] in red, (ii) Dibike et al. [50] in blue, (iii) Shuter et al. [51] in orange, and (iv) Brammer et al. [52] in black
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Fig6: Relationship between (a) advance in breakup or (b) delay in freeze dates and the proportion of possible ice crossings. Ice crossings by migratory caribou were observed between 2007 and 2014, whereas changes in breakup or freeze dates (from 1 to 30 days) represent potential consequences of warming air temperatures in the Arctic during the next 25–50 years (2041–2070 horizon). Projections of future freeze and breakup dates are taken from (i) Brown and Duguay [19] in red, (ii) Dibike et al. [50] in blue, (iii) Shuter et al. [51] in orange, and (iv) Brammer et al. [52] in black

Mentions: By simulating advances in the average thawing date of the largest water bodies in the caribou range, we found that only 6 % (1/17) of ice crossings performed during the spring migration would not have been possible if water bodies had melted 10–15 days earlier (Fig. 6a). When we delayed the average freezing date to projected values for the 2041–2070 horizon (delays of 7.8–13.8 days), the proportion of impossible ice crossings during the fall migration reached 24–46 % (12 to 23/50, Fig. 6b). Thus, future changes in ice phenology caused by a warming Arctic could result in the loss of as much as 36 % of ice crossings during the thawing and freezing periods by 2070.Fig. 6


Caribou, water, and ice - fine-scale movements of a migratory arctic ungulate in the context of climate change.

Leblond M, St-Laurent MH, Côté SD - Mov Ecol (2016)

Relationship between (a) advance in breakup or (b) delay in freeze dates and the proportion of possible ice crossings. Ice crossings by migratory caribou were observed between 2007 and 2014, whereas changes in breakup or freeze dates (from 1 to 30 days) represent potential consequences of warming air temperatures in the Arctic during the next 25–50 years (2041–2070 horizon). Projections of future freeze and breakup dates are taken from (i) Brown and Duguay [19] in red, (ii) Dibike et al. [50] in blue, (iii) Shuter et al. [51] in orange, and (iv) Brammer et al. [52] in black
© Copyright Policy - OpenAccess
Related In: Results  -  Collection

License 1 - License 2
Show All Figures
getmorefigures.php?uid=PMC4837602&req=5

Fig6: Relationship between (a) advance in breakup or (b) delay in freeze dates and the proportion of possible ice crossings. Ice crossings by migratory caribou were observed between 2007 and 2014, whereas changes in breakup or freeze dates (from 1 to 30 days) represent potential consequences of warming air temperatures in the Arctic during the next 25–50 years (2041–2070 horizon). Projections of future freeze and breakup dates are taken from (i) Brown and Duguay [19] in red, (ii) Dibike et al. [50] in blue, (iii) Shuter et al. [51] in orange, and (iv) Brammer et al. [52] in black
Mentions: By simulating advances in the average thawing date of the largest water bodies in the caribou range, we found that only 6 % (1/17) of ice crossings performed during the spring migration would not have been possible if water bodies had melted 10–15 days earlier (Fig. 6a). When we delayed the average freezing date to projected values for the 2041–2070 horizon (delays of 7.8–13.8 days), the proportion of impossible ice crossings during the fall migration reached 24–46 % (12 to 23/50, Fig. 6b). Thus, future changes in ice phenology caused by a warming Arctic could result in the loss of as much as 36 % of ice crossings during the thawing and freezing periods by 2070.Fig. 6

Bottom Line: Although ice phenology did not change significantly during our study, climate projections indicated that ice availability could decrease considerably before the end of the century, generating a ~28 % increase in distance travelled by caribou during the early spring and fall migrations.We demonstrated that ice availability influenced the movements of a migratory arctic ungulate.The long-term conservation of wide-ranging species will ultimately depend on our ability to identify the fine-scale behavioural reactions of individuals to broad-scale changes in climate and land use.

View Article: PubMed Central - PubMed

Affiliation: Caribou Ungava, Département de biologie, and Center for Northern Studies, Université Laval, 1045 avenue de la Médecine, Québec, QC G1V 0A6 Canada.

ABSTRACT

Background: Freshwater lakes and rivers of the Northern Hemisphere have been freezing increasingly later and thawing increasingly earlier during the last century. With reduced temporal periods during which ice conditions are favourable for locomotion, freshwater bodies could become impediments to the inter-patch movements, dispersion, or migration of terrestrial animals that use ice-covered lakes and rivers to move across their range. Studying the fine-scale responses of individuals to broad-scale changes in ice availability and phenology would help to understand how animals react to ongoing climate change, and contribute to the conservation and management of endangered species living in northern environments. Between 2007 and 2014, we equipped 96 migratory caribou Rangifer tarandus caribou from the Rivière-aux-Feuilles herd in northern Québec (Canada) with GPS telemetry collars and studied their space use. We measured contemporary (digital MODIS maps updated every 8 days, 2000-2014) and historical (annual observations, 1947-1985) variations in freshwater-ice availability and evaluated the concurrent responses of caribou to these changes.

Results: Ice had a positive influence on caribou movement rates and directionality, and caribou selected ice and avoided water when moving across or in the vicinity of large water bodies. When ice was unavailable, caribou rarely swam across (6 % of crossings) and frequently circumvented water bodies for several km. Although ice phenology did not change significantly during our study, climate projections indicated that ice availability could decrease considerably before the end of the century, generating a ~28 % increase in distance travelled by caribou during the early spring and fall migrations.

Conclusions: We demonstrated that ice availability influenced the movements of a migratory arctic ungulate. Warmer air temperatures in the Arctic will undoubtedly modify the phenology of ice forming on freshwater lakes and rivers. If migratory caribou are unable to adjust the timing of their migrations, they could be forced to circumvent unfrozen water bodies more frequently and over broader areas, which may increase the distance, time, and energy they use to reach wintering areas. The long-term conservation of wide-ranging species will ultimately depend on our ability to identify the fine-scale behavioural reactions of individuals to broad-scale changes in climate and land use.

No MeSH data available.


Related in: MedlinePlus