Bodil Elmhagen

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Abstract

The relationship between wolverine and larger predators, lynx and wolf,
in a historical ecosystem context.

Apex predators play an important role in shaping ecosystem structure. They may suppress smaller predators (mesopredators) but also subsidize scavengers via carrion provisioning. However, the importance of these interactions can change with ecosystem context. The wolverine (Gulo gulo) is a cold-adapted carnivore and facultative scavenger. It has a circumboreal distribution, where it could be either suppressed or subsidized by larger predators. In Scandinavia, the wolverine might interact with two larger predators, wolf (Canis lupus) and lynx (Lynx lynx), but human persecution decimated the populations in the nineteenth and early twentieth century. We investigated potential relationships between wolverine and the larger predators using hunting bag statistics from 15 Norwegian and Swedish counties in 1846–1922. Our best models showed a positive association between wolverine and lynx trends, taking ecological and human factors into account. There was also a positive association between year-to-year fluctuations in wolverine and wolf in the latter part of the study period. We suggest these associations could result from positive lynx–wolverine interactions through carrion provisioning, while wolves might both suppress wolverine and provide carrion with the net effect becoming positive when wolf density drops below a threshold. Wolverines could thus benefit from lynx presence and low-to-intermediate wolf densities.

Reference
Khalil H, Pasanen-Mortensen M, Elmhagen B (2014) The relationship between wolverine and larger predators, lynx and wolf, in a historical ecosystem context. Oecologia 175: 625-637.

 
     
 

Wolverine track in northern Sweden