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Distinct patterns in alpine vegetation around dens of the Arctic fox

Bruun, Hans Henrik LU ; Österdahl, Sofie; Moen, Jon and Angerbjörn, Anders (2005) In Ecography 28(1). p.81-87
Abstract
The arctic fox Alopex lugopus excavates its dens in gravely ridges and hillocks, and creates a local environment quite distinct from the surrounding tundra or heath landscape. In northern Sweden, the vegetation of 18 dens of the arctic fox was investigated, as well as reference areas off the dens but in geologically and topographically similar locations. The species composition showed considerable differences between den and reference areas, with grasses and forbs occurring more abundantly on the dens, and evergreen dwarf-shrubs occurring more in reference areas. The effect of the foxes' activities is thought to be either through mechanical soil disturbance, or through nutrient enrichment via scats, urine, and carcasses. This was expected... (More)
The arctic fox Alopex lugopus excavates its dens in gravely ridges and hillocks, and creates a local environment quite distinct from the surrounding tundra or heath landscape. In northern Sweden, the vegetation of 18 dens of the arctic fox was investigated, as well as reference areas off the dens but in geologically and topographically similar locations. The species composition showed considerable differences between den and reference areas, with grasses and forbs occurring more abundantly on the dens, and evergreen dwarf-shrubs occurring more in reference areas. The effect of the foxes' activities is thought to be either through mechanical soil disturbance, or through nutrient enrichment via scats, urine, and carcasses. This was expected to result in differences in plant traits with key functional roles in resource acquisition and regeneration, when comparing dens with reference areas. We hypothesised that the community mean of specific leaf area (SLA) would differ if nutrient enrichment was the more important effect, and that seed weight, inversely proportional to seed number per ramet and hence dispersal ability, would differ if soil disturbance was the more important effect. Specific leaf area showed a significant difference, indicating nutrient enrichment to be the most important effect of the arctic fox on the vegetation on its dens. Arctic foxes act as ecosystems engineers on a small scale, maintaining niches for relatively short-lived nutrient demanding species on their dens in spite of the dominance of long-lived ericaceous dwarf-shrubs in the landscape matrix. Thus, foxes contribute to the maintenance of species richness on the landscape level. (Less)
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author
organization
publishing date
type
Contribution to journal
publication status
published
subject
in
Ecography
volume
28
issue
1
pages
81 - 87
publisher
Wiley-Blackwell
external identifiers
  • wos:000227143500008
  • scopus:13944263696
ISSN
1600-0587
DOI
10.1111/j.0906-7590.2005.04033.x
language
English
LU publication?
yes
id
ef1e2e77-1c42-452d-a13d-13b3db5ab59a (old id 147105)
date added to LUP
2007-07-02 08:50:50
date last changed
2017-10-01 04:42:46
@article{ef1e2e77-1c42-452d-a13d-13b3db5ab59a,
  abstract     = {The arctic fox Alopex lugopus excavates its dens in gravely ridges and hillocks, and creates a local environment quite distinct from the surrounding tundra or heath landscape. In northern Sweden, the vegetation of 18 dens of the arctic fox was investigated, as well as reference areas off the dens but in geologically and topographically similar locations. The species composition showed considerable differences between den and reference areas, with grasses and forbs occurring more abundantly on the dens, and evergreen dwarf-shrubs occurring more in reference areas. The effect of the foxes' activities is thought to be either through mechanical soil disturbance, or through nutrient enrichment via scats, urine, and carcasses. This was expected to result in differences in plant traits with key functional roles in resource acquisition and regeneration, when comparing dens with reference areas. We hypothesised that the community mean of specific leaf area (SLA) would differ if nutrient enrichment was the more important effect, and that seed weight, inversely proportional to seed number per ramet and hence dispersal ability, would differ if soil disturbance was the more important effect. Specific leaf area showed a significant difference, indicating nutrient enrichment to be the most important effect of the arctic fox on the vegetation on its dens. Arctic foxes act as ecosystems engineers on a small scale, maintaining niches for relatively short-lived nutrient demanding species on their dens in spite of the dominance of long-lived ericaceous dwarf-shrubs in the landscape matrix. Thus, foxes contribute to the maintenance of species richness on the landscape level.},
  author       = {Bruun, Hans Henrik and Österdahl, Sofie and Moen, Jon and Angerbjörn, Anders},
  issn         = {1600-0587},
  language     = {eng},
  number       = {1},
  pages        = {81--87},
  publisher    = {Wiley-Blackwell},
  series       = {Ecography},
  title        = {Distinct patterns in alpine vegetation around dens of the Arctic fox},
  url          = {http://dx.doi.org/10.1111/j.0906-7590.2005.04033.x},
  volume       = {28},
  year         = {2005},
}