University of Oulu

Hansen, B. B., Lorentzen, J. R., Welker, J. M., Varpe, Ø., Aanes, R., Beumer, L. T., and Pedersen, Å. Ø.. 2019. Reindeer turning maritime: Ice‐locked tundra triggers changes in dietary niche utilization. Ecosphere 10( 4):e02672. 10.1002/ecs2.2672

Reindeer turning maritime : ice‐locked tundra triggers changes in dietary niche utilization

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Author: Hansen, Brage Bremset1; Lorentzen, Jon Runar1,2; Welker, Jeffrey M.3,4;
Organizations: 1entre for Biodiversity Dynamics, Department of Biology, Norwegian University of Science and Technology, N-7491 Trondheim, Norway
2Department of Arctic Biology, The University Centre in Svalbard, N-9171 Longyearbyen, Norway
3UArctic & University of Oulu, Oulu 90014 Finland
4University of Alaska Anchorage, Anchorage, Alaska 99516 USA
5Akvaplan-niva, Fram Centre, N-9296 Tromsø, Norway
6Centre for Biodiversity Dynamics, Department of Biology, Norwegian University of Science and Technology, N-7491 Trondheim, Norway
7Norwegian Polar Institute, Fram Centre, N-9296 Tromsø, Norway
8Department of Bioscience, Aarhus University, Frederiksborgvej 399, 4000 Roskilde, Denmark
Format: article
Version: published version
Access: open
Online Access: PDF Full Text (PDF, 1.5 MB)
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Language: English
Published: John Wiley & Sons, 2019
Publish Date: 2019-10-04


The rapid warming of the Arctic may not only alter species’ abundances and distributions, but likely also the trophic interactions within and between ecosystems. On the high‐arctic tundra, extreme warm spells and associated rain‐on‐snow events in winter can encapsulate the vegetation entirely in ground‐ice (i.e., basal ice) and directly or indirectly affect plants, herbivores, and carnivores. However, the implications of such extreme events for trophic interactions and food‐web ecology are generally far from understood. Here, we show that wild Svalbard reindeer populations increasingly isolated by lack of sea‐ice respond to rain‐on‐snow and ice‐locked pastures by increased kelp consumption. Based on annual population surveys in late winters 2006–2015, the proportion of individual reindeer feeding along the shoreline increased the icier the winter. Stable isotope values (δ³⁴S, δ¹³C, δ¹⁵N) of plants, washed‐ashore kelp, and fresh reindeer feces collected along coast‐inland gradients, confirmed ingestion of marine biomass by the reindeer in the shoreline habitat. Thus, even on remote islands and peninsulas increasingly isolated by sea‐ice loss, effects of climate change may be buffered in part by behavioral plasticity and increased use of resource subsidies. This marine dimension of a terrestrial herbivore’s realized foraging niche adds to evidence that global warming significantly alters trophic interactions as well as meta‐ecosystem processes.

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Series: Ecosphere
ISSN: 2150-8925
ISSN-E: 2150-8925
ISSN-L: 2150-8925
Volume: 10
Issue: 4
Article number: e02672
DOI: 10.1002/ecs2.2672
Type of Publication: A1 Journal article – refereed
Field of Science: 1172 Environmental sciences
1171 Geosciences
1181 Ecology, evolutionary biology
Funding: This study was financed by the Research Council of Norway (RCN: projects 276080, 244647, 235503, and 223257), JMW's Fulbright Distinguished US Arctic Chair‐Norway fellowship and NSF Major Research Instrumentation award (0953271, establishing the UAA Stable Isotope Laboratory), Jan Christensen's Endowment, the Norwegian Polar Institute, The University Centre in Svalbard, and Centre for Biodiversity Dynamics at the Norwegian University of Science and Technology.
Copyright information: © 2019 The Authors. This is an open access article under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution License, which permits use, distribution and reproduction in any medium, provided the original work is properly cited.