Stratégies biodémographiques du cerf de Virginie en réponse aux variations de la densité de population et des facteurs environnementaux

Authors: Ayotte, Pascale
Advisor: Côté, Steeve D.
Abstract: Both population density and environmental stochasticity generate variations in energetic intake and nutritional requirements and expenditures of ungulates. These variations modulate their life-history strategies through different mechanisms. The objective of this study was to evaluate the influence of population density and environmental factors on resource allocation among various parameters of individual body condition and reproductive effort in female white-tailed deer, and to better understand post-reproductive consequences on body condition. We used a long-term dataset of life-history traits of white-tailed deer harvested on Anticosti Island (Québec, Canada), with an emphasis on adult females (>2 years old). Our study revealed that variability in life-history traits is linked to population density and vegetation productivity. High population density reduced autumn gains in body reserves, which in turn reduced the probability of conceiving twins or triplets. High population density at birth positively influenced female body mass in autumn, and consequently litter size. The rate of the spring green-up positively affected body fat accumulation. Our study also allowed us to detect synergistic effects between population density and environmental factors on body condition and reproductive parameters. The negative effect of winter precipitations on fat reserves in autumn only occurred at low population density. At low population density, females born under harsh environmental conditions tended to delay age at first reproduction. Vegetation productivity in spring negatively influenced female body mass in autumn, and this effect was more pronounced at high population density. Finally, our study revealed that reproduction affected female body condition in autumn. Lactation negatively influenced body mass and body reserves, while conception negatively influenced fat reserves. In summary, our study provides additional insights on how northern ungulates limited by food may respond to future environmental changes. We suggest that plasticity in life-history strategies is a major determinant of reproductive potential for females living at high density and under harsh climates.
Document Type: Mémoire de maîtrise
Issue Date: 2018
Open Access Date: 24 April 2018
Grantor: Université Laval
Collection:Thèses et mémoires

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