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Research article2020Peer reviewedOpen access

Documenting lemming population change in the Arctic: Can we detect trends?

Ehrich, Dorothee; Schmidt, Niels M.; Gauthier, Gilles; Alisauskas, Ray; Angerbjorn, Anders; Clark, Karin; Ecke, Frauke; Eide, Nina E.; Framstad, Erik; Frandsen, Jay; Franke, Alastair; Gilg, Olivier; Giroux, Marie-Andree; Henttonen, Heikki; Hornfeldt, Birger; Ims, Rolf A.; Kataev, Gennadiy D.; Kharitonov, Sergey P.; Killengreen, Siw T.; Krebs, Charles J.;
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Lemmings are a key component of tundra food webs and changes in their dynamics can affect the whole ecosystem. We present a comprehensive overview of lemming monitoring and research activities, and assess recent trends in lemming abundance across the circumpolar Arctic. Since 2000, lemmings have been monitored at 49 sites of which 38 are still active. The sites were not evenly distributed with notably Russia and high Arctic Canada underrepresented. Abundance was monitored at all sites, but methods and levels of precision varied greatly. Other important attributes such as health, genetic diversity and potential drivers of population change, were often not monitored. There was no evidence that lemming populations were decreasing in general, although a negative trend was detected for low arctic populations sympatric with voles. To keep the pace of arctic change, we recommend maintaining long-term programmes while harmonizing methods, improving spatial coverage and integrating an ecosystem perspective.


Arctic; Dicrostonyx; Lemmus; Population monitoring; Temporal trends; Small rodent

Published in

AMBIO: A Journal of the Human Environment
2020, Volume: 49, number: 3, pages: 786-800
Publisher: SPRINGER