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Data for: Red foxes enhance long-term tree growth near the Arctic treeline

Cite this dataset

Lang, Jessica; Roth, James; Tardif, Jacques; Markham, John (2022). Data for: Red foxes enhance long-term tree growth near the Arctic treeline [Dataset]. Dryad.


Recent climate warming is expected to increase tree growth and productivity, substantially altering ecological function and boundaries in northern ecosystems. Temperature and precipitation largely determine the range and growth of trees in any biome, yet variations in microsite conditions can also influence tree growth on a finer scale. By altering essential resources and habitat conditions, terrestrial organisms could modify Subarctic tree growth. Red foxes (Vulpes vulpes) are found in most terrestrial ecosystems and are considered ecosystem engineers by enriching soil nutrients and plant composition through denning. Added soil nutrients from prey remains, feces, and urine could benefit tree growth in Subarctic regions by alleviating soil nutrient limitations. We examined growth in white spruce (Picea glauca) trees growing on eight red fox dens and paired control sites near Churchill, Manitoba, Canada, at the Arctic treeline. Radial growth was 55% higher for trees on dens than on control sites between 1897 and 2017, despite similarities in tree ages, densities, and regional climate across all sites. By promoting tree growth near the treeline, red foxes may influence the position of the Arctic treeline. Although the impacts on tree growth largely depend on the spatial distribution of dens and predator activity in the boreal forest, predators can create distinct microhabitats across the landscape via ecosystem engineering processes, leading to increased vegetation productivity, persisting over many decades.