The seasonal sensitivity of brown bear denning phenology in response to climatic variability

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Frontiers in Zoology. 2018 Nov 01;15(1):41

Title: The seasonal sensitivity of brown bear denning phenology in response to climatic variability
Author: Delgado, M M; Tikhonov, G; Meyke, E; Babushkin, M; Bespalova, T; Bondarchuk, S; Esengeldenova, A; Fedchenko, I; Kalinkin, Y; Knorre, A; Kosenkov, G; Kozsheechkin, V; Kuznetsov, A; Larin, E; Mirsaitov, D; Prokosheva, I; Rozhkov, Y; Rykov, A; Seryodkin, I V; Shubin, S; Sibgatullin, R; Sikkila, N; Sitnikova, E; Sultangareeva, L; Vasin, A; Yarushina, L; Kurhinen, J; Penteriani, V
Publisher: BioMed Central
Date: 2018-11-01
Language: en
Abstract: Abstract Background For brown bears (Ursus arctos), hibernation is a critical part of the annual life cycle because energy savings during hibernation can be crucial for overwintering, and females give birth to cubs at that time. For hibernation to be a useful strategy, timing is critical. However, environmental conditions vary greatly, which might have a negative effect on the functionality of the evolved biological time-keeping. Here, we used a long-term dataset (69 years) on brown bear denning phenology recorded in 12 Russian protected areas and quantified the phenological responses to variation in temperature and snow depth. Previous studies analyzing the relationship between climate and denning behavior did not consider that the brown bear response to variation in climatic factors might vary through a period preceding den entry and exit. We hypothesized that there is a seasonal sensitivity pattern of bear denning phenology in response to variation in climatic conditions, such that the effect of climatic variability will be pronounced only when it occurs close to den exit and entry dates. Results We found that brown bears are most sensitive to climatic variations around the observed first den exit and last entry dates, such that an increase/decrease in temperature in the periods closer to the first den exit and last entry dates have a greater influence on the denning dates than in other periods. Conclusions Our study shows that climatic factors are modulating brown bear hibernation phenology and provide a further structuring of this modulation. The sensitivity of brown bears to changes in climatic factors during hibernation might affect their ability to cope with global climate change. Therefore, understanding these processes will be essential for informed management of biodiversity in a changing world.
Subject: Climate change
Denning ecology
Hierarchical Gaussian process
Time-varying coefficients
Ursus arctos

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