Skip to main content

Thank you for visiting nature.com. You are using a browser version with limited support for CSS. To obtain the best experience, we recommend you use a more up to date browser (or turn off compatibility mode in Internet Explorer). In the meantime, to ensure continued support, we are displaying the site without styles and JavaScript.

ECOLOGY

Rain on the lemming parade

Arctic Sci. http://doi.org/cvp6 (2018)

Cycles of population boom and bust are common in Arctic species. Lemmings are perhaps the best known example, and their population cycles are ecologically important in the high Arctic. Surprisingly, the drivers of these cycles remain a matter of debate. As lemmings live for much of the year under the snow, modulating the winter climate that they experience (the subnivium), changes in snow cover could contribute to these dynamics.

figurea

Wildscotphotos/Alamy Stock Photo

Florent Domine from the Université Laval, Canada, and CNRS, France, and co-authors investigate the influence of physical snowpack characteristics on brown lemming population dynamics in the Canadian high Arctic using lemming population data and snow modelling over the period 2003–2014. They were particularly interested in the effects of the hardness of the basal layer of snow — which is determined by rain-on-snow events and wind storms in autumn.

They find that winter lemming population growth shows a strong negative response to rain-on-snow occurrence and that summer population and winter nest densities are also negatively affected, although to a lesser extent. The increasing occurrence of rain-on-snow events projected under climate warming can be expected to strongly impact lemming populations and consequently the wider high Arctic ecosystem.

Author information

Affiliations

Authors

Corresponding author

Correspondence to Alastair Brown.

Rights and permissions

Reprints and Permissions

About this article

Verify currency and authenticity via CrossMark

Cite this article

Brown, A. Rain on the lemming parade. Nature Clim Change 8, 940 (2018). https://doi.org/10.1038/s41558-018-0333-4

Download citation

Search

Quick links

Nature Briefing

Sign up for the Nature Briefing newsletter — what matters in science, free to your inbox daily.

Get the most important science stories of the day, free in your inbox. Sign up for Nature Briefing