Herbivory in the Tundra

Now that we (Team Kluane) are back at Kluane and ploughing through our work schedule, I (John) feel it is time to reminisce about a little experiment we completed earlier in the season, which investigated how herbivory patterns change with elevation.

We carried out the experiment for Dr. Anna Hargreaves as one of those favours that I’m told academics do for each other from time to time. Anna has orchestrated a whole suite of these experiments from as far South as Ecuador right the way up the North American continent to the Yukon, where we are.

seed herbivory transects 15 09 11

Anna Hargreaves seed herbivory transect.  Kluane is the northern most site!

At Pika Camp, while Haydn and El collected even more plant trait data, Sandra and I tromped off down into the valley, sunflower seeds in hand, to try and entice all sorts of animals out for a feast. Then we tromped all the way back up the valley, laying out caches of seeds as we traversed a roughly 1km elevation range.
The next day, after more tromping, we found that many of the seeds had been nibbled on and some had been eaten entirely. But what was possibly even more interesting, is how much the little rodents loved flagging tape and popsicle sticks! Probably it was marmots, they’ll eat anything I reckon.
Highlights of our epic hike around Pika Camp include wading across glacial runoff streams, climbing to the summit of East Peak, and seeing a porcupine!!!
We had so much fun we decided to do the whole thing again back on the Kluane Plateau.

by John

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