The breeding productivity of dark-bellied brent geese and curlew sandpipers in relation to changes in the numbers of arctic foxes and lemmings on the Taimyr Peninsula, Siberia —

Authors

  • Ron W. Summers,

    1. R. W. Summers,0 Royal Society for the Protection of Birds, Etive House, Beechwood Park, Inverness, Scotland IV2 3BW. - L. G. Underhill, Avian Demography Unit, Dept of Statistical Sciences, Univ, of Cape Town, Rondebosch, South Africa. 7701 - E. E. Syroechkovski Jr., Inst. of Ecology und Evolution, Russian Academy of Sciences, 33 Leninsky Prospect, Moscow, Russia.
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  • Les G. Underhill,

    1. R. W. Summers,0 Royal Society for the Protection of Birds, Etive House, Beechwood Park, Inverness, Scotland IV2 3BW. - L. G. Underhill, Avian Demography Unit, Dept of Statistical Sciences, Univ, of Cape Town, Rondebosch, South Africa. 7701 - E. E. Syroechkovski Jr., Inst. of Ecology und Evolution, Russian Academy of Sciences, 33 Leninsky Prospect, Moscow, Russia.
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  • Evgeny E. Syroechkovski Jr.

    1. R. W. Summers,0 Royal Society for the Protection of Birds, Etive House, Beechwood Park, Inverness, Scotland IV2 3BW. - L. G. Underhill, Avian Demography Unit, Dept of Statistical Sciences, Univ, of Cape Town, Rondebosch, South Africa. 7701 - E. E. Syroechkovski Jr., Inst. of Ecology und Evolution, Russian Academy of Sciences, 33 Leninsky Prospect, Moscow, Russia.
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Abstract

There were about three-year cycles in the populations of arctic foxes, and the breeding productivities of brent geese and curlew sandpipers on the Taimyr Peninsula, Russia, The populations of arctic foxes and lemmings changed in synchrony. The breeding productivities of the birds tended to be good when the arctic foxes were increasing in numbers and poor when the arctic foxes were decreasing. There was a negative relationship between arctic fox numbers (or occupied lairs) and the breeding productivity of brent geese in the following year. Although there was evidence of wide-spread synchrony In the lemming cycle across the Taimyr Peninsula, some localities showed differences, However, such sites would still have been influenced by the general pattern of fox abundance in the typical tundra zone of the Taimyr Peninsula, where most of the arctic foxes breed and from which extensive movements of foxes occur after a decline in lemming numbers. The results support a prey-switching hypothesis (also known as the alternative prey hypothesis) whereby arctic foxes, and other predators, feed largely on lemmings when these are abundant or increasing, but switch to birds when the lemming population is small or declining. The relationships between arctic foxes, lemmings and brent geese may be further influenced by snowny owls which create fox-exclusion zones around their nests, thus providing safe nesting areas for the geese.

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