Oecologia

, Volume 68, Issue 4, pp 496–502

Cycles in voles and small game in relation to variations in plant production indices in Northern Sweden

  • B. Hörnfeldt
  • O. Löfgren
  • B. -G. Carlsson
Original Papers

DOI: 10.1007/BF00378761

Cite this article as:
Hörnfeldt, B., Löfgren, O. & Carlsson, B.G. Oecologia (1986) 68: 496. doi:10.1007/BF00378761

Abstract

Population dynamics for voles (Cricetidae), Tengmalm's owl (Aegolius funereus (L.)), red fox (Vulpes vulpes (L.)) willow grouse (Lagopus lagopus (L.)), black grouse (Lyrurus tetrix (L.)), capercaillie (Tetrao urogallus L.), hazel hen (Tetrastes bonasia (L.)), mountain hare (Lepus timidus L.) and tularemia (Francisella tularensis (McCoy & Chapin)) and game bird recruitment were studied by index methods in northern Sweden. In addition contemporary temperature records and spruce (Picea abies (L.) Karst.) and pine (Pinus silvestris L.) cone crops (as indices for plant production) and the occurrence of forest damage, caused by voles eating bark, were studied.

During 1970–80 two synchronous 4-year cycles were observed for voles, predators (Tengmalm's owl and red fox) and their alternative prey species (grouse and mountain hare). In grouse the change of numbers was correlated with that of recruitment. Autumn vole numbers peaked about a year before the other species and extensive forest damage occurred at winter peak densities of voles. These population fluctuations are consistent with a predator-prey model for their regulation. In short the model suggests that vole-food plant interactions trigger the cycle of voles, that voles generate the cycle of predators and that these in turn synchronize alternative prey populations to the others at vole declines.

For voles, grouse and red fox the amplitude was higher in the first cycle compared to the second one whilst the opposite was true for the mountain hare. Although temperature and cone crops showed large interannual variations they still implied that herbivore food conditions were ‘better’ during the former cycle. Hence, the reduction of the amplitude of the vole cycle may be explained by inter-cyclic differences in plant food conditions, implying food shortage (as indicated by bark-eating) at different population levels. The similar decrease of grouse and red fox populations may also be explained by deteriorated food conditions and/or for the fox by an outbreak of sarcoptic mange (Sarcoptes scabiae var. vulpes). The increased amplitude of the mountain hare cycle was part of a long-term rise in numbers after a tularemia epidemic in 1967. This is interpreted as a recovery, probably towards the generally higher pre-epidemic population level.

Copyright information

© Springer-Verlag 1986

Authors and Affiliations

  • B. Hörnfeldt
    • 1
  • O. Löfgren
    • 1
  • B. -G. Carlsson
    • 1
  1. 1.Department of Ecological ZoologyUniversity of UmeåUmeåSweden

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