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Keywords:

  • Alces alces;
  • environmental variation;
  • fundamental niche;
  • life-history variation;
  • normalized difference vegetation index

Summary

  • 1
    A general problem in population ecology is to predict under which conditions stochastic variation in the environment has the stronger effect on ecological processes. By analysing temporal variation in a fitness-related trait, body mass, in 21 Norwegian moose Alces alces (L.) populations, we examined whether the influence of temporal variation in different environmental variables were related to different parameters that were assumed to reflect important characteristics of the fundamental niche space of the moose.
  • 2
    Body mass during autumn was positively related to early access to fresh vegetation in spring, and to variables reflecting slow phenological development (low June temperature, a long spring with a slow plant progression during spring). In contrast, variables related to food quantity and winter conditions had only a minor influence on temporal variation in body mass.
  • 3
    The magnitude of the effects of environmental variation on body mass was larger in populations with small mean body mass or living at higher densities than in populations with large-sized individuals or living at lower densities.
  • 4
    These results indicate that the strongest influence of environmental stochasticity on moose body mass occurs towards the borders of the fundamental niche space, and suggests that populations living under good environmental conditions are partly buffered against fluctuations in environmental conditions.