Global warming threatens to reduce population connectivity for terrestrial wildlife through significant and rapid changes to sea ice. Using genetic fingerprinting, we contrasted extant connectivity in island-dwelling Peary caribou in northern Canada with continental-migratory caribou. We next examined if sea-ice contractions in the last decades modulated population connectivity and explored the possible impact of future climate change on long-term connectivity among island caribou. We found a strong correlation between genetic and geodesic distances for both continental and Peary caribou, even after accounting for the possible effect of sea surface. Sea ice has thus been an effective corridor for Peary caribou, promoting inter-island connectivity and population mixing. Using a time series of remote sensing sea-ice data, we show that landscape resistance in the Canadian Arctic Archipelago has increased by approximately 15% since 1979 and may further increase by 20–77% by 2086 under a high-emission scenario (RCP8.5). Under the persistent increase in greenhouse gas concentrations, reduced connectivity may isolate island-dwelling caribou with potentially significant consequences for population viability.
One contribution to the special feature ‘Effects of sea ice on arctic biota’.
Electronic supplementary material is available online at https://dx.doi.org/10.6084/m9.figshare.c.3464550.
- Received March 21, 2016.
- Accepted August 25, 2016.
- © 2016 The Author(s)
Published by the Royal Society. All rights reserved.