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Title: Forage quality and reindeer productivity: multiplier effects amplified by climate change

Author: Cebrian, Merben R.; Kielland, Knut; Finstad, Greg;

Date: 2008

Source: Arctic, Antarctic, and Alpine Research. 40(1):48-54

Publication Series: Scientific Journal (JRNL)

Description: We investigated the effects of experimental manipulations of snowmelt on the flowering phenology and forage chemistry (digestibility and nitrogen concentration) of tussock cottongrass (Eriophonun vaginauoni) on the Seward Peninsula, Alaska. Early snowmelt accelerated reproductive phenology by 11 days, and resulted in higher floral digestibility both early and late during inflorescence development. Nitrogen concentrations of inflorescences in late snowmelt plots were initially the highest among treatments, but decreased nearly 40% during inflorescence development. Thus, changes in climate that lead to changes in snow cover can alter both the timing of flowering and chemistry of Eriopliorum and, consequently, its value as reindeer and caribou forage. We then used published relationships between forage chemistry and body weight gain of reindeer (White, 1983) to model the possible effects of altered forage chemistry on food intake and growth in reindeer. Model output shows that reindeer foraging on Eriophorum inflorescences may increase digestible dry matter intake twofold by selectively foraging on early-emergent inflorescences. The multiplicative effects of forage quality and food intake result in a near doubling in the rate of weight gain during this critical early spring period. Such increases in body weight gain have potentially great consequences for reindeer at both individual and population levels.

Keywords: Forage, reindeer, climate change

Publication Notes:

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Cebrian, Merben R.; Kielland, Knut; Finstad, Greg. 2008. Forage quality and reindeer productivity: multiplier effects amplified by climate change. Arctic, Antarctic, and Alpine Research. 40(1):48-54.


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