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Nature. 1993 Nov 18;366(6452):259-61.

Intrinsic density-dependent regulation of vole populations.

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  • 1Institute of Ecosystem Studies, Millbrook, New York 12545.


Considerable controversy exists over the role of density-dependent processes in controlling animal population size. In populations that fluctuate cyclically or erratically, for example many voles and insects, theory predicts that either density-dependence is weak, or that density-dependent responses lag behind density. One key mechanism for lagged density-dependence is a delay in regeneration of food resources following heavy exploitation. Here we show that meadow vole (Microtus pennsylvanicus) populations respond immediately to high density by reducing breeding effort and hence population growth, disproving the hypothesis that density-dependence is weak. In addition, vole populations do not show a delay in growth following marked reduction in plant biomass (their source of food and cover). We conclude that intrinsic density-dependence processes tend to stabilize vole populations, and that cyclic dynamics are not caused by lagged effects of resource exploitation.

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