The bioclimatic envelope of the wolverine (Gulo gulo): do climatic constraints limit its geographic distribution?

Copeland, J. P.; McKelvey, K. S.; Aubry, K. B.; Landa, A.; Persson, J.; Inman, R. M.; Krebs, J.; Lofroth, E.; Golden, H.; Squires, J. R.; Magoun, A.; Schwartz, M. K.; Wilmot, J.; Copeland, C. L.; Yates, R. E.; Kojola, I.; May, R.
March 2010
Canadian Journal of Zoology;Mar2010, Vol. 88 Issue 3, p233
Academic Journal
We propose a fundamental geographic distribution for the wolverine (Gulo gulo (L., 1758)) based on the hypothesis that the occurrence of wolverines is constrained by their obligate association with persistent spring snow cover for successful reproductive denning and by an upper limit of thermoneutrality. To investigate this hypothesis, we developed a composite of MODIS classified satellite images representing persistent snow cover from 24 April to 15 May, which encompasses the end of the wolverine’s reproductive denning period. To investigate the wolverine’s spatial relationship with average maximum August temperatures, we used interpolated temperature maps. We then compared and correlated these climatic factors with spatially referenced data on wolverine den sites and telemetry locations from North America and Fennoscandia, and our contemporary understanding of the wolverine’s circumboreal range. All 562 reproductive dens from Fennoscandia and North America occurred at sites with persistent spring snow cover. Ninety-five percent of summer and 86% of winter telemetry locations were concordant with spring snow coverage. Average maximum August temperature was a less effective predictor of wolverine presence, although wolverines preferred summer temperatures lower than those available. Reductions in spring snow cover associated with climatic warming will likely reduce the extent of wolverine habitat, with an associated loss of connectivity.


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