5 years ago

Pulsed food resources, but not forest cover, determine lifetime reproductive success in a forest-dwelling rodent

Pulsed food resources, but not forest cover, determine lifetime reproductive success in a forest-dwelling rodent
Vesa Selonen, Alexandre Villers, Katrine S. Hoset, Ralf Wistbacka
The relative contributions of habitat and food availability on fitness may provide evidence for key habitat features needed to safeguard population persistence. However, defining habitat quality for a species can be a complex task, especially if knowledge on the relationship between individual performance and habitat quality is lacking. Here, we determined the relative importance of the availability of suitable forest habitat, body mass and food from masting tree species on female lifetime reproductive success (LRS) of Siberian flying squirrels (Pteromys volans). We calculated LRS of 500 female flying squirrels based on a 22-year-long longitudinal dataset of two populations from western Finland. We assessed with generalised additive models the potential effects of availability of suitable habitat and cumulative lifetime availability of food from masting tree species on female LRS, longevity and fecundity. On a reduced dataset, we evaluated the importance of female winter body mass and conducted a piecewise path analysis to determine how variables were connected. According to generalised additive models female longevity, fecundity and LRS were mainly determined by variation in cumulative lifetime availability of food from masting alder and birch. Instead, habitat and body mass had a smaller role. The path analysis indicated that lifetime food availability had a direct effect on longevity and fecundity, and these had an equal effect on LRS at both study sites. Our results on LRS show that the occurrence of tree masting events during a female flying squirrel's lifetime has a profoundly larger effect on LRS than the cover of suitable forest habitat. Furthermore, this study emphasises the importance of both fecundity and longevity, and the indirect effects of food availability via those components, as determinants of lifetime fitness in female flying squirrels. This paper investigates separate effects of food availability and suitable forest habitat on lifetime reproductive success (LRS) on a protected forest-dwelling rodent, the Siberian flying squirrel. The authors show that mainly food availability determines LRS indirectly through longevity and fecundity in this species. Picture copyright: Henrik Lund

Publisher URL: http://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/resolve/doi

DOI: 10.1111/1365-2656.12715

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