The arctic fox is a small-sized carnivore endemic to the tundra biome, and often a functionally important predator in the terrestrial food web. It is well adapted to face extreme arctic conditions. How will it cope with the challenges of a rapidly warming climate, notably melting sea ice, warmer winters, changed food resource dynamics and expanding boreal competitors?
The arctic fox (Vulpes lagopus) is the only mammalian predator endemic to the terrestrial Arctic. It is almost omnipresent in the tundra biome, ranging from the subarctic mountain tundra in Fennoscandia to the polar deserts of high-arctic islands close to the North Pole. The arctic fox is thus living in a large variety of food web contexts and takes different functions as predator and/or scavenger as well as vectors for zoonoses (parasites and diseases that can infect humans).
The two COAT regions represent two extremes in terms of ecological contexts and management regimes for the arctic fox. On Varanger Peninsula, the arctic fox belongs to (and competes with) a species-rich predator community that relies on cyclic rodent peak years to breed successfully. Presently, the Varanger arctic fox population is on the verge of extinction and subjected to several conservation actions. In contrast, the arctic fox in Svalbard is still abundant and subjected to harvesting. As the main predator in the terrestrial Svalbard food web, with a broad diet of both terrestrial and marine resources, the Svalbard arctic fox maintains several important ecological functions.
Read more about the Arctic fox module on Varanger and Svalbard