Global warming is predicted to adversely affect the reproduction of birds, especially in northern latitudes. A recent study in Finland inferred that declining populations of black grouse, Tetrao tetrix, could be attributed to advancement of the time of mating and chicks hatching too early-supporting the mismatch hypothesis. Here, we examine the breeding success of sympatric capercaillie, T. urogallus, and black grouse over a 38-year period in southeast Norway. Breeding season temperatures increased, being most pronounced in April. Although the onset of spring advanced nearly three weeks, the peak of mating advanced only 4-5 days. In contrast to the result of the Finnish study, breeding success increased markedly in both species (capercaillie: 62%, black grouse: 38%). Both brood frequency and brood size increased during the study period, but significantly so only for brood frequency in capercaillie. Whereas the frequency of capercaillie broods was positively affected by rising temperatures, especially during the pre-hatching period, this was not the case in black grouse. Brood size, on the other hand, increased with increasing post-hatching temperatures in both species. Contrary to the prediction that global warming will adversely affect reproduction in boreal forest grouse, our study shows that breeding success was enhanced in warmer springs.
Shrubs have expanded in Arctic ecosystems over the past century, resulting in significant changes to albedo, ecosystem function, and plant community composition. Willow and rock ptarmigan (Lagopus lagopus, L. muta) and moose (Alces alces) extensively browse Arctic shrubs, and may influence their architecture, growth, and reproduction. Furthermore, these herbivores may alter forage plants in such a way as to increase the quantity and accessibility of their own food source. We estimated the effect of winter browsing by ptarmigan and moose on an abundant, early-successional willow (Salix alaxensis) in northern Alaska by comparing browsed to unbrowsed branches. Ptarmigan browsed 82-89% of willows and removed 30-39% of buds, depending on study area and year. Moose browsed 17-44% of willows and browsed 39-55% of shoots. Browsing inhibited apical dominance and activated axillary and adventitious buds to produce new vegetative shoots. Ptarmigan- and moose-browsed willow branches produced twice the volume of shoot growth but significantly fewer catkins the following summer compared with unbrowsed willow branches. Shoots on browsed willows were larger and produced 40-60% more buds compared to unbrowsed shoots. This process of shoot production at basal parts of the branch is the mechanism by which willows develop a highly complex "broomed" architecture after several years of browsing. Broomed willows were shorter and more likely to be re-browsed by ptarmigan, but not moose. Ptarmigan likely benefit from the greater quantity and accessibility of buds on previously browsed willows and may increase the carrying capacity of their own habitat. Despite the observed tolerance of willows to browsing, their vertical growth and reproduction were strongly inhibited by moose and ptarmigan. Browsing by these herbivores therefore needs to be considered in future models of shrub expansion in the Arctic.
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Habitat models provide information about which habitat management should target to avoid species extinctions or range contractions. The willow ptarmigan inhabits alpine- and arctic tundra habitats in the northern hemisphere and is listed as near threatened (NT) in the Norwegian red list due to declining population size. Habitat alteration is one of several factors affecting willow ptarmigan populations, but there is a lack of studies quantifying and describing habitat selection in willow ptarmigan. We used data from an extensive line transect survey program from 2014 to 2017 to develop resource selection functions (RSF) for willow ptarmigan in Norway. The selection coefficients for the RSF were estimated using a mixed-effects logistic regression model fitted with random intercepts for each area. We predicted relative probability of selection across Norway and quantile-binned the predictions in 10 RSF bins ranging from low-(1) to high-(10) relative probability of selection.
Random cross-validation suggest that our models were highly predictive, but validation based spatial blocking revealed that the predictability was better in southern parts of Norway compared to the northernmost region. Willow ptarmigan selected for herb-rich meadows and avoided lichen rich heathlands. There was generally stronger selection for vegetation types with dense field layer and for rich bogs and avoidance of vegetation types with sparse field layer cover and for lowland forest. Further, willow ptarmigan selected for areas around the timberline and for intermediate slopes. Mapping of the RSF showed that 60% of Norway is in the lowest ranked RSF bin and only 2% in the highest ranked RSF bin.
Willow ptarmigan selected for vegetation types with dense field layer and bogs at intermediate slopes around the timberline. Selection coincides with previous habitat selection studies on willow ptarmigan. This is the first attempt to assess and quantify habitat selection for willow ptarmigan at a large scale using data from line transect distance sampling surveys. Spatial variation in predictability suggests that habitat selection in late summer might vary from north to south. The resource selection map can be a useful tool when planning harvest quotas and habitat interventions in alpine areas.
Arctic homeotherms counter challenges at high latitudes using a combination of seasonal adjustments in pelage/plumage, fat deposition and intricate thermoregulatory adaptations. However, there are still gaps in our understanding of their thermal responses to cold, particularly in Arctic birds. Here, we have studied the potential use of local heterothermy (i.e. tissue cooling that can contribute to significantly lower heat loss rate) in Svalbard ptarmigan (Lagopus muta hyperborea) - the world's northernmost land bird. We exposed birds kept under simulated Svalbard photoperiod to low ambient temperatures (Ta; between 0 and -30°C) during three seasons (early winter, late winter, summer), whilst recording resting metabolic rate (RMR), core temperature (Tc) and several cutaneous temperatures. Leg skin temperature varied the most, but still only by up to ~15°C, whereas body trunk skin temperature changed
Individuals' reproductive success is often strongly associated with their age, with typical patterns of early-life reproductive improvement and late-life senescence. These age-related patterns are due to the inherent trade-offs between life-history traits competing for a limited amount of resources available to the organisms. In males, such trade-offs are exacerbated by the resource requirements associated with the expression of costly sexual traits, leading to dynamic changes in trait expression throughout their life span. Due to the age dependency of male phenotypes, the relationship between the expression of male traits and mating success can also vary with male age. Hence, using longitudinal data in a lekking species with strong sexual selection - the black grouse Lyrurus tetrix - we quantified the effects of age, life span and age of first lek attendance (AFL) on male annual mating success (AMS) to separate the effects of within-individual improvement and senescence on AMS from selective (dis)appearance of certain phenotypes. Then, we used male AMS to quantify univariate and multivariate sexual selection gradients on male morphological and behavioural traits with and without accounting for age and age-related effects of other traits. Male AMS increased with age, and there was no significant reproductive senescence. Most males never copulated, and of the ones that did, the majority had only one successful year. Life span was unrelated to AMS, but early AFL tended to lead to higher AMS at ages 1-3. AMS was related to most morphological and behavioural traits when male age was ignored. Accounting for age and age-specific trait effects (i.e. the interaction between a trait and age) reduced the magnitude of the selection gradients and revealed that behavioural traits are under consistent sexual selection, while sexual selection on morphological traits is stronger in old males. Therefore, sexual selection in black grouse operates primarily on male behaviour and morphological traits may act as additional cues to supplement female choice. These results demonstrate the multifaceted influence of age on both fitness and sexual traits and highlight the importance of accounting for such effects when quantifying sexual selection.