University of Oulu

Pakanen, V.-M., Tornberg, R., Airaksinen, E., Rönkä, N., & Koivula, K. (2022). The abundance of small mammals is positively linked to survival from nest depredation but negatively linked to local recruitment of a ground nesting precocial bird. Ecology and Evolution, 12, e9292.

The abundance of small mammals is positively linked to survival from nest depredation but negatively linked to local recruitment of a ground nesting precocial bird

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Author: Pakanen, Veli-Matti1; Tornberg, Risto1; Airaksinen, Eveliina1;
Organizations: 1Ecology and Genetics Research Unit, University of Oulu, Oulu, Finland
Format: article
Version: published version
Access: open
Online Access: PDF Full Text (PDF, 2.3 MB)
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Language: English
Published: John Wiley & Sons, 2022
Publish Date: 2022-10-07


Generalist predators using small mammals as their primary prey are suggested to shift hunting alternative prey such as bird nests, when small mammals are in short supply (the alternative prey hypothesis, APH). Nest survival and survival of young individuals should be positively linked to small mammal abundance and negatively linked to predator abundance, but little information exists from survival of chicks, especially until recruitment. We test these predictions of the APH using 13 years (2002–2014) of life history data from a ground nesting shorebird breeding on coastal meadows. We use small mammal abundance in the previous autumn as a proxy for spring predator abundance, mainly of mammalian predators. We examine whether small mammal abundance in the spring and previous autumn explain annual variation in nest survival from depredation and local recruitment of the southern dunlin Calidris alpina schinzii. As predicted by the APH, survival from nest predation was positively linked to spring small mammal abundance and negatively linked to autumn small mammal abundance. Importantly, local recruitment showed opposite responses. This counterintuitive result may be explained by density-dependent survival. When nest depredation rates are low, predators may show stronger numerical and functional responses to high shorebird chick abundance on coastal meadows, whereas in years of high nest depredation, few hatching chicks lure fewer predators. The opposite effects on nest and local recruitment demonstrate the diverse mechanisms by which population size variation in primary prey can affect dynamics of alternative prey populations.

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Series: Ecology and evolution
ISSN: 2045-7758
ISSN-E: 2045-7758
ISSN-L: 2045-7758
Volume: 12
Issue: 9
Article number: e9292
DOI: 10.1002/ece3.9292
Type of Publication: A1 Journal article – refereed
Field of Science: 1181 Ecology, evolutionary biology
Funding: Our long-term research and present work were funded by the Academy of Finland (128384, KK and 278759, VMP), Ministry of the Environment (KK, VMP). The Finnish Foundation for Nature Conservation (VMP), the Faculty of Science, University of Oulu, Finland (NR), Finnish Cultural Foundation (VMP), the Finnish Environment Institute (KK), the Emil Aaltonen Foundation (NR and VMP), the Kone Foundation (VMP), the University of Oulu Scholarship Foundation (NR), and the Tauno Tönning Foundation (VMP). All applicable institutional and/or national guidelines for the care and use of animals were followed. The work complies with the current laws of Finland. Fieldwork in Finland was completed with permission from the North-Ostrobothnian regional environment center (PPO-2004-L-289-254, PPO-2006-L-206-254).
Academy of Finland Grant Number: 278759
Detailed Information: 278759 (Academy of Finland Funding decision)
128384 (Academy of Finland Funding decision)
Copyright information: © 2022 The Authors. Ecology and Evolution published by John Wiley & Sons Ltd. 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.