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CR 86:179-190 (2022)  -  DOI:

Direct and indirect effects of environmental drivers on reindeer reproduction

John-André Henden1,*, Torkild Tveraa2, Audun Stien1, Jarad Pope Mellard1, Filippo Marolla1, Rolf Anker Ims1, Nigel Gilles Yoccoz1

1University of Tromsø, The Arctic University of Norway, AMB, 9019 Tromsø, Norway
2Norwegian Institute for Nature Research, 9007 Tromsø, Norway
*Corresponding author:

ABSTRACT: The impact of climate change on the dynamics of populations has been well documented and is widespread. However, weather variability influences populations both directly and indirectly, and is mediated by species interactions. This complexity may impede proper climate impact assessments. Hence, predicting the consequences of climate change may require including processes that occur both with time lags and across trophic levels. Based on our current understanding of the mechanisms linking local climate and trophic interactions in tundra ecosystems, we used a state-space formulation of a mediation model that allowed for assessing the relative contribution of direct and indirect environmental (weather and trophic) effects on reindeer Rangifer tarandus reproductive success. Our study showed that the mediator effect of body condition caused delayed but predictable effects of weather, plant productivity, and reindeer densities on reproductive success. Furthermore, these predictors also affected reproductive success directly and with the same sign, suggesting that direct and indirect effects pulled in the same direction with respect to their combined total effect on reproductive success. Hence, poor weather conditions not only affect calf production negatively the same year, but also increase the likelihood of poor reproductive success the subsequent year. The results support the expectation that calf slaughter mass (as a proxy for herd body condition) is an important indicator of the state of reindeer herds with respect to their production potential and resilience to weather events and climate change. Finally, the model framework employed in the present study can be further developed as a potential vehicle for near-term forecasting, and thereby constitutes a useful tool for adaptive management.

KEY WORDS: Mediation · Arctic · Heterogeneous effects · Ungulates · Body condition · Reproductive success · SEM · Structural Equation Model

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Cite this article as: Henden JA, Tveraa T, Stien A, Mellard JP, Marolla F, Ims RA, Yoccoz NG (2022) Direct and indirect effects of environmental drivers on reindeer reproduction. Clim Res 86:179-190.

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