Wildlife species benefitting from a greener Arctic are most sensitive to shrub cover at leading range edges

Wheeler, Helen C. and Høye, Toke T. and Svenning, Jens-Christian (2018) Wildlife species benefitting from a greener Arctic are most sensitive to shrub cover at leading range edges. Global Change Biology, 24 (1). pp. 212-223. ISSN 1365-2486

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Official URL: https://doi.org/10.1111/gcb.13837


Widespread expansion of shrubs is occurring across the Arctic. Shrub expansion will substantially alter arctic wildlife habitats. Identifying which wildlife species are most affected by shrubification is central to predicting future arctic community composi- tion. Through meta-analysis, we synthesized the published evidence for effects of canopy-forming shrubs on birds and mammals in the Arctic and Subarctic. We exam- ined variation in species behaviour, distribution and population dynamics in birds and mammals in response to shrub cover (including shrub cover indicators such as shrub occurrence, extent, density and height). We also assessed the degree of heterogeneity in wildlife responses to shrub cover and synthesized the remaining literature that did not fit the criteria for our quantitative meta-analyses. Species from higher green vege- tation biomass habitats (high Normalized Difference Vegetation Index, NDVI, across their distribution) were more likely to respond positively to shrub cover, demonstrat- ing the potential for species to expand from boreal to arctic habitats under shrubifica- tion. Wildlife populations located in the lowest vegetation biomass (low NDVI) areas of their species’ range had the greatest proportion of positive responses to shrub cover, highlighting how increases in performance at leading edges of invaders distribu- tions may be particularly rapid. This demonstrates the need to study species at these leading edges to accurately predict expansion potential. Arctic specialists were poorly represented across studies (limited to 5 bird and 0 mammal species), this knowledge gap potentially explains the few reported negative effects of shrub cover (3 of 29 spe- cies). Species responses to shrub cover showed substantial heterogeneity and varied among sites and years in all studies with sufficient replication to detect such variation. Our study highlights the importance of responses at species range edges in determin- ing outcomes of shrubification for arctic birds and mammals and the need for greater examination of potential wildlife losers under shrubification.

Item Type: Journal Article
Keywords: birds, climate change, global warming
Faculty: ARCHIVED Faculty of Science & Technology (until September 2018)
Depositing User: Ian Walker
Date Deposited: 21 Sep 2018 12:40
Last Modified: 09 Sep 2021 16:11
URI: https://arro.anglia.ac.uk/id/eprint/703606

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