Red foxes colonizing the tundra: genetic analysis as a tool for population management

Karin Norén, Anders Angerbjörn, Johan Wallén, Tomas Meijer, Benjamin Sacks

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

9 Scopus citations


Climate change accelerates biodiversity alterations in northern ecosystems. A prevalent example is that tundra regions are invaded by boreal species. This impacts negatively on native species through competition, predation and transmission of zoonoses. Scandinavian red foxes (Vulpes vulpes) have emerged into the tundra and have altered the structure and function of the tundra community. For instance, they threaten persistence of the endangered Swedish Arctic fox (Vulpes lagopus). County board administrations implement control of the tundra red foxes, but little is known about the underlying expansion dynamics. A broad-scale study revealed high connectivity where northern areas were supplemented with red foxes from surrounding population. However, red fox expansion is most prevalent in tundra regions and the fine-scaled expansion dynamics in these areas have not yet been disseminated. With the aim of identifying the invasive pathways of tundra red foxes, we present microsatellite data for 205 Swedish red foxes and mitochondrial sequence variation in 102 foxes sampled across the historical boreo-nemoral distribution and recently colonized tundra regions. Genetic structuring was low with high levels of ongoing, asymmetric dispersal from surrounding boreal zones into tundra habitats causing high genetic admixture. In both tundra and boreo-nemoral regions, inter-individual relatedness decreased with increasing geographic distance and data suggests male-biased dispersal patterns. Overall, fine-scaled expansion patterns were affected by multiple factors and we discuss its implications for future red fox management.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)359-370
Number of pages12
JournalConservation Genetics
Issue number2
StatePublished - Apr 1 2017


  • Asymmetric dispersal
  • Conservation
  • DNA analysis
  • Expansion
  • Inter-specific competition
  • Relatedness

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Ecology, Evolution, Behavior and Systematics
  • Genetics


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