F. Millán M., Carranza J., Seoane J.M. et Pérez-González J. (2022) Forage quality of consecutive years interact to affect body condition, reproductive rate and rut phenology in Iberian red deer. PLoS ONE 17(12): e0278367. https://doi.org/10.1371/journal.pone.0278367
Body condition for reproduction in capital breeders such as the red deer (Cervus elaphus) is mostly determined by their stored energy reserves. Thus, environmental conditions and resource availability may affect reproductive performance and breeding success. In warm Mediterranean regions, current climate change is driving to a hotter and drier scenario that is expected to affect the biology and dynamics of many populations. We examined the impact of these local climate variations on red deer body condition and the relationship with female reproductive phenology and breeding success. We used satellite information of landscape vegetation along with a 22-year data series of direct field behavioural observations during the rutting season in Doñana National Park (SW Spain). We analyzed faecal nitrogen content (FN) from faeces collected during the rut. We found that poor vegetation availability in drier years was related to worse body condition of deer (measured by FN) and a delay in the rutting season, which associated with lower reproductive rates (measured by the proportion of females with calves observed the next year). We also evidenced an interesting interaction between environmental conditions in consecutive years on the timing of breeding season, with timing of breeding being more delayed when previous year resource availability was high and many females bred, and the consecutive one was poor, so females hardly recovered condition and the rut occurred later. These findings highlight the carry-over effect of reproduction in capital breeders and the potential impact of climate-change conditions on red deer breeding.