A multi-metric approach to investigate the effects of weather conditions on the demographic of a terrestrial mammal, the european badger (Meles meles).
Nouvellet P., Newman C., Buesching CD., Macdonald DW.
Models capturing the full effects of weather conditions on animal populations are scarce. Here we decompose yearly temperature and rainfall into mean trends, yearly amplitude of change and residual variation, using daily records. We establish from multi-model inference procedures, based on 1125 life histories (from 1987 to 2008), that European badger (Meles meles) annual mortality and recruitment rates respond to changes in mean trends and to variability in proximate weather components. Variation in mean rainfall was by far the most influential predictor in our analysis. Juvenile survival and recruitment rates were highest at intermediate levels of mean rainfall, whereas low adult survival rates were associated with only the driest, and not the wettest, years. Both juvenile and adult survival rates also exhibited a range of tolerance for residual standard deviation around daily predicted temperature values, beyond which survival rates declined. Life-history parameters, annual routines and adaptive behavioural responses, which define the badgers' climatic niche, thus appear to be predicated upon a bounded range of climatic conditions, which support optimal survival and recruitment dynamics. That variability in weather conditions is influential, in combination with mean climatic trends, on the vital rates of a generalist, wide ranging and K-selected medium-sized carnivore, has major implications for evolutionary ecology and conservation.