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Durham University

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Publication details

Chirichella, R., Stephens, P.A., Mason, T.H.E. & Apollonio, M. (2021). Contrasting Effects of Climate Change on Alpine chamois. Journal of Wildlife Management 85(1): 109-120.

Author(s) from Durham


Global climate change can affect animal ecology in numerous ways, but researchers usually emphasize undesirable consequences. Temperature increases, for instance, can induce direct physiological costs and indirect effects via mismatches in resource needs and availability. Species living in mountainous regions, however, could experience beneficial effects because winters might become less severe. We examined the potentially opposing effects of climate change during spring, summer, and winter on recruitment in Alpine chamois (Rupicapra rupicapra). We examined initial recruitment (i.e., the ratio of kids to adult females) and net recruitment (i.e., the ratio of yearlings to adult females) of Alpine chamois through the use of linear mixed effects models and data from block count censuses performed across a 1,500‐km2 study area in the Italian Alps during summer from 2001 to 2015. Initial recruitment was relatively resistant to the effects of climate change, declining slightly over the study period. We suggest that the effects of increased forage availability and lower snow cover in winter may benefit the reproductive output of adult females, compensating for any negative effects of trophic mismatch and higher temperatures during summer. By contrast, net recruitment strongly declined throughout the study period, consistent with the slight decline of initial recruitment and the negative effects of increasing summer temperatures on the survival of kids during their first winter. These negative effects seemed to outweigh positive effects of climate change, even in a species strongly challenged by winter conditions. These findings provide important information for hunted populations; setting more appropriate hunting bags for yearling chamois should be considered. The ecological plasticity of the chamois, which also inhabits low altitudes, may allow a possible evolutionary escape for the species