Food web approach for managing arctic wildlife populations in an era of rapid environmental change
Climate Research (CR)
Scientists and wildlife managers implementing adaptive monitoring and management schemes, are tasked with providing predictions of population responses to harvest and environmental changes. Such predictions are useful not only to forecast direct effects of climate, productivity, land use, or habitat degradation, but also changes in the food web, such as expanding/ increasing species that are predators, prey, and competitors of populations of concern. Explicit consideration of food webs and
... dynamics in more complex models could provide better predictions of future changes, and allow us to better assess the influence of management actions. Here, we present our perspective on what we have learned from conducting a number of case studies using such a food web approach with a focus on climate and harvest impacts and their implications for management. We found empirical support for many of our hypothesized food web effects, and were able in some cases to obtain short-term forecasts with slightly lower prediction error using models that account for food web dynamics compared with simpler models. Predictions are the foundation of adaptive management because they allow quantitative assessment of the effects of management actions; however, evaluating predictions requires adequate and highquality monitoring data. Results from our case studies show that a combination of long-term monitoring and different types of study designs coupled with models of adequate complexity are likely required to better understand populations' responses to environmental changes and harvest, as well as the consequences for food webs.