For species living in seasonal environments the understanding of demographic processes requires identifying the environmental factors during spring and summer that shape phenotypic variation. We assessed the effects of plant phenology and population abundance during spring–summer on variation in autumn body mass among cohorts (1995–2006) of juvenile alpine chamois (Rupicapra rupicapra). We computed several metrics based on the normalized difference vegetation index (NDVI) to assess interannual variation in plant phenology and productivity. Body mass of both sexes decreased similarly during years with late springs (−20%) and with increasing population abundance (−15%), with no interactive effect. Our results also suggested that forage quality more than forage quantity influenced body mass of juveniles. Variation in body mass of juveniles thus can be used as an indicator of the relationship between chamois populations and their environment. This study also demonstrates the utility of satellite-based data in increasing our understanding of the consequences of spring–summer conditions on life-history traits.
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Vol. 92 • No. 5