Impact of climate change on the small mammal community of the Yukon boreal forest

Charles J. Krebs, Rudy Boonstra, B. Scott Gilbert, Alice J. Kenney, Stan Boutin

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36 Citations (Scopus)
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Long-term monitoring is critical to determine the stability and sustainability of wildlife populations, and if change has occurred, why. We have followed population density changes in the small mammal community in the boreal forest of the southern Yukon for 46 years with density estimates by live trapping on 3–5 unmanipulated grids in spring and autumn. This community consists of 10 species and was responsible for 9% of the energy flow in the herbivore component of this ecosystem from 1986 to 1996, but this increased to 38% from 2003 to 2014. Small mammals, although small in size, are large in the transfer of energy from plants to predators and decomposers. Four species form the bulk of the biomass. There was a shift in the dominant species from the 1970s to the 2000s, with Myodes rutilus increasing in relative abundance by 22% and Peromyscus maniculatus decreasing by 22%. From 2007 to 2018, Myodes comprised 63% of the catch, Peromyscus 20%, and Microtus species 17%. Possible causes of these changes involve climate change, which is increasing primary production in this boreal forest, and an associated increase in the abundance of 3 rodent predators, marten (Martes americana), ermine (Mustela ermine) and coyotes (Canis latrans). Following and understanding these and potential future changes will require long-term monitoring studies on a large scale to measure metapopulation dynamics. The small mammal community in northern Canada is being affected by climate change and cannot remain stable. Changes will be critically dependent on food–web interactions that are species-specific.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)528-541
Number of pages14
JournalIntegrative Zoology
Issue number6
Publication statusPublished - 1 Nov 2019
Externally publishedYes


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