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Climate change can alter predator–prey dynamics and population viability of prey

Bastille-Rousseau, Guillaume, Schaefer, JamesA., Peers, MichaelJ. L., Ellington, E.Hance, Mumma, MatthewA., Rayl, NathanielD., Mahoney, ShaneP., Murray, DennisL.
Oecologia 2018 v.186 no.1 pp. 141-150
Canis latrans, Rangifer tarandus, Ursus americanus, biocenosis, calves, climate change, ecosystems, heat sums, keystone species, models, population dynamics, population viability, predation, predator-prey relationships, prediction, summer, temperature, weather forecasting, winter, Newfoundland and Labrador
For many organisms, climate change can directly drive population declines, but it is less clear how such variation may influence populations indirectly through modified biotic interactions. For instance, how will climate change alter complex, multi-species relationships that are modulated by climatic variation and that underlie ecosystem-level processes? Caribou (Rangifer tarandus), a keystone species in Newfoundland, Canada, provides a useful model for unravelling potential and complex long-term implications of climate change on biotic interactions and population change. We measured cause-specific caribou calf predation (1990–2013) in Newfoundland relative to seasonal weather patterns. We show that black bear (Ursus americanus) predation is facilitated by time-lagged higher summer growing degree days, whereas coyote (Canis latrans) predation increases with current precipitation and winter temperature. Based on future climate forecasts for the region, we illustrate that, through time, coyote predation on caribou calves could become increasingly important, whereas the influence of black bear would remain unchanged. From these predictions, demographic projections for caribou suggest long-term population limitation specifically through indirect effects of climate change on calf predation rates by coyotes. While our work assumes limited impact of climate change on other processes, it illustrates the range of impact that climate change can have on predator–prey interactions. We conclude that future efforts to predict potential effects of climate change on populations and ecosystems should include assessment of both direct and indirect effects, including climate–predator interactions.