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Integr Comp Biol. 2004 Apr;44(2):119-29. doi: 10.1093/icb/44.2.119.

Trophic interactions in a high arctic snow goose colony.

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  • 1Département de biologie and Centre d'études nordiques, Université Laval, Québec, Québec, G1K 7P4. Canada.

Abstract

We examined the role of trophic interactions in structuring a high arctic tundra community characterized by a large breeding colony of greater snow geese (Chen caerulescens atlantica). According to the exploitation ecosystem hypothesis of Oksanen et al. (1981), food chains are controlled by top-down interactions. However, because the arctic primary productivity is low, herbivore populations are too small to support functional predator populations and these communities should thus be dominated by the plant/ herbivore trophic-level interaction. Since 1990, we have been monitoring annual abundance and productivity of geese, the impact of goose grazing, predator abundance (mostly arctic foxes, Alopex lagopus) and the abundance of lemmings, the other significant herbivore in this community, on Bylot Island, Nunavut, Canada. Goose grazing consistently removed a significant proportion of the standing crop (∼40%) in tundra wetlands every year. Grazing changed plant community composition and reduced the production of grasses and sedges to a low-level equilibrium compared to the situation where the presence of geese had been removed. Lemming cyclic fluctuations were strong and affected fox reproduction. Fox predation on goose eggs was severe and generated marked annual variation in goose productivity. Predation intensity on geese was closely related to the lemming cycle, a consequence of an indirect interaction between lemming and geese via shared predators. We conclude that, contrary to the exploitation ecosystem hypothesis, both the plant/herbivore and predator/prey interactions are significant in this arctic community.

PMID:
21680492
[PubMed]
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