CIE Spotlight: Loss of periodicity in breeding success of waders links to changes in lemming cycles in Arctic ecosystems

Yaara A. R. and Marcel K.
Yaara A. R. and Marcel K.

TitleLoss of periodicity in breeding success of waders links to changes in lemming cycles in Arctic ecosystems.

AuthorsAharon-Rotman, Yaara; Soloviev, Mikhail; Minton, Clive; Tomkovich, Pavel; Hassell, Chris; Klaassen, Marcel.

Source: OIKOS.

Brief summary of the paper: Lemming population cycles in the Arctic have an important impact on the Arctic food web, indirectly also affecting breeding success in Arctic-nesting birds through shared predators.

Over the last two decades lemming cycles have changed in amplitude and even disappeared in parts of the Arctic.

To examine the large scale effect of these recent changes we re-analysed published data from the East Atlantic Flyway (EAF), where a relationship between lemming cycles and wader breeding success was earlier found, and new data on breeding success of waders in the East Asian–Australasian Flyway (EAAF).

We found that 1) any long-term periodicities in wader breeding success existed only until the year 2000 in the EAAF and until the 1980s in the EAF; 2) studying these patterns at a smaller spatial scale, where the Siberian–Alaskan breeding grounds were divided into five geographical units largely based on landscape features, breeding success of waders from the EAAF was not correlated to an index of predation pressure, but positively correlated to Arctic summer temperatures in some species.

We argue that fading out of lemming cycles in some parts of the Arctic is responsible for faltering periodicity in wader breeding success along both flyways.

These changed conditions have not yet resulted in any marked changing trends in breeding success across years, and declining numbers of waders along the EAAF are therefore more likely a result of changing conditions at stop-over and wintering sites.