Present address: School of Biological Sciences, University of Aberdeen, Tillydrone Avenue, Aberdeen AB24 2TZ, UK.
Winter severity limits red fox populations in Eurasia
Article first published online: 22 JAN 2007
Global Ecology and Biogeography
Volume 16, Issue 3, pages 281–289, May 2007
How to Cite
Bartoń, K. A. and Zalewski, A. (2007), Winter severity limits red fox populations in Eurasia. Global Ecology and Biogeography, 16: 281–289. doi: 10.1111/j.1466-8238.2007.00299.x
- Issue published online: 22 JAN 2007
- Article first published online: 22 JAN 2007
- Environmental conditions;
- population limitation;
- population density;
- Vulpes vulpes;
- winter severity
Aim We investigated geographical variation in the density of the red fox in relation to climatic variables, habitat productivity and seasonality to identify those factors that were the best predictors of fox density.
Location Published data on red fox abundance were collated from 69 locations over Europe and Asia.
Methods Using generalized linear models and the information-theoretic approach, we analysed the contribution of climatic measures (winter and summer temperature, mean snow depth and duration), primary productivity and seasonality indices [based on the fraction of photosynthetically active radiation (FPAR) index] to account for variation in red fox density.
Results Red fox density in winter ranged from 0.001–2.8 individuals km−2; the average density was 0.21 individuals km−2. Variation in red fox density was best explained by the winter temperature and seasonality. Density decreased with declining winter and summer temperatures, increasing degree of seasonality and increasing duration of snow cover. There was no relationship with habitat productivity.
Main conclusions Our results indicate that winter climatic conditions and seasonality, but not habitat productivity, may limit red fox density in Eurasia. One explanation for the limitation of the red fox population may be the fox's physiological capability to cope with abiotic conditions. Concurrently, the severity of winter may lead to reduced availability of the fox's prey. That, together with a shorter reproductive period may result in lower reproductive output as well as lower survival of adults and cubs.