Scientists learn something new about foxes – and it’ll astound you

Foxes are adorable, intellignet, family-oriented animals that live in many different parts of Canada. In the near-desolate tundra of northern Canada, they somehow manage to thrive. But what’s more impressive is what they do the landscape around them.

The CBC last week reported that arctic foxes are gardeners, creating increased greenspace around their dens in an area near Churchill, Manitoba.

“By concentrating nutrients on dens Arctic foxes enhance nutrient cycling as an ecosystem service and thus engineer Arctic ecosystems on local scales,” wrote the scientists who published a study in the journal Scientific Reports. “The enhanced productivity in patches on the landscape could subsequently affect plant diversity and the dispersion of herbivores on the tundra.”

The numbers in the study are impressive – an increase of 71 per cent and 242 per cent of inorganic nitrogen in den site soil in the June and August test months than they did in control sites. But what is more remarkable is the visual image of a bloom of green in an otherwise grey landscape.

"It's really striking. You can see these dens in August as a bright green spot from a kilometre away," University of Manitoba biologist and study author James Roth told the CBC. "It's such a dramatic contrast between the bright, green vegetation around the dens and the tundra around it."

It is remarkable that we’re still learning so much about our own country’s landscape and how it functions. And it’s a sign that we must always be questioning how our actions can impact the delicate ecosystems around us.

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