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ESR 49:145-158 (2022)  -  DOI:

High dietary and habitat diversity indicate generalist behaviors of northern bog lemmings Synaptomys borealis in Alaska, USA

A. P. Baltensperger1,*, J. C. Hagelin2, P. A. Schuette3, A. Droghini4, K. Ott5

1International Arctic Research Center (IARC), University of Alaska Fairbanks, Fairbanks, AK 99775, USA
2Threatened, Endangered, and Diversity Program, Alaska Department of Fish and Game, Fairbanks, AK 99701, USA
3Marine Mammals Management, US Fish and Wildlife Service, Anchorage, AK 99503, USA
4Alaska Center for Conservation Science, University of Alaska Anchorage, Anchorage, AK 99508, USA
5US Fish and Wildlife Service, Fairbanks, AK 99701, USA
*Corresponding author:

ABSTRACT: The northern bog lemming Synaptomys borealis (NBL) is a rare small mammal that is undergoing a federal Species Status Assessment (SSA) under the US Endangered Species Act. Despite a wide North American distribution, very little is known about NBL dietary or habitat needs, both of which are germane to the resiliency of this species to climate change. To quantify diet composition of NBL in Alaska, we used DNA metabarcoding from 59 archived specimens to describe the taxonomic richness and relative abundance of foods in recent diets. DNA analyses revealed a broad diet composed of at least 110 families and 92 genera of bryophytes (mosses and liverworts), graminoids, fungi, forbs, and woody shrubs. Nine bryophyte genera and Carex sedges composed the largest portions of NBL diets. To quantify habitat preference, we intersected 467 georeferenced occurrence records of NBL in Alaska with remotely sensed land cover classes and used a compositional analysis framework that accounts for the relative abundance of land cover types. We did not detect significant habitat preferences for specific land cover types, although NBL frequently occurred in evergreen forest, woody wetlands, and adjacent to water. Our research highlights the importance of bryophytes, among a high diversity of dietary components, and describes NBL as boreal habitat generalists. Results will inform the current federal SSA by quantifying the extent to which ecological constraints are likely to affect NBL in a rapidly changing boreal environment.

KEY WORDS: Boreal forest · Compositional analysis · Diet · US Endangered Species Act · Habitat preference · DNA metabarcoding · Rodents

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Cite this article as: Baltensperger AP, Hagelin JC, Schuette PA, Droghini A, Ott K (2022) High dietary and habitat diversity indicate generalist behaviors of northern bog lemmings Synaptomys borealis in Alaska, USA. Endang Species Res 49:145-158.

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