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Trends Ecol Evol. 1997 Apr;12(4):143-9.

Environmental stochasticity and population dynamics of large herbivores: a search for mechanisms.

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Dept of Zoology, Norwegian University for Science and Technology, N-7034 Trondheim, Norway.


Recently, the results from several long-term individual-based population studies of ungulates have been published. One major conclusion is that the population dynamics of ungulates in predator-free environments is strongly influenced by a combination of stochastic variation in the environment, and population density. Both density dependence and environmental stochasticity operate through changes in life history traits, correlated with variation in body weight. This generates delays in the response of the population to changes in environment. In the absence of predation, a stable equilibrium is therefore unlikely to exist between an ungulate population and its food resources. This thorough understanding of the mechanisms generating population fluctuations suggests that studies of ungulates will provide an important source for examining effects of long-term changes in the environment, for instance, resulting from a climatic change.

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