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Am Nat. 2006 Apr;167(4):583-90. Epub 2006 Mar 8.

Changes over time in the spatiotemporal dynamics of cyclic populations of field voles (Microtus agrestis L.).

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Biomathematics and Statistics Scotland, University of Edinburgh, James Clerk Maxwell Building, King's Buildings, Edinburgh EH9 3JZ, United Kingdom.


We demonstrate changes over time in the spatial and temporal dynamics of an herbivorous small rodent by analyzing time series of population densities obtained at 21 locations on clear cuts within a coniferous forest in Britain from 1984 to 2004. Changes had taken place in the amplitude, periodicity, and synchrony of cycles and density-dependent feedback on population growth rates. Evidence for the presence of a unidirectional traveling wave in rodent abundance was strong near the beginning of the study but had disappeared near the end. This study provides empirical support for the hypothesis that the temporal (such as delayed density dependence structure) and spatial (such as traveling waves) dynamics of cyclic populations are closely linked. The changes in dynamics were markedly season specific, and changes in overwintering dynamics were most pronounced. Climatic changes, resulting in a less seasonal environment with shorter winters near the end of the study, are likely to have caused the changes in vole dynamics. Similar changes in rodent dynamics and the climate as reported from Fennoscandia indicate the involvement of large-scale climatic variables.

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