, Volume 62, Issue 2, pp 199-208

Role of predation in short-term population fluctuations of some birds and mammals in Fennoscandia

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We tested the hypothesis that synchronous fluctuations in small game species in boreal Fennoscandia are caused by varying predation pressure. The main prey of predators are the cyclically superabundant voles. Small game species (alternative prey) are rare compared to voles. The following 4 predictions were checked: (1) Predators should shift their diet from main prey to alternative prey as main prey decline. — This was confirmed using data on red fox (Vulpes vulpes L.) diet.; (2) The mortality rate of alternative prey should be inversely correlated to the abundance of main prey. — This was true for mountain hare (Lepus timidus L.) mortality rates and the rate of nest predation on black grouse (Tetrao tetrix L.).; (3) The total consumption of prey by all the predators should at least equal the critical losses in alternative prey during a decline year. — A tentative estimate of predator consumption amounted to 10 times the losses in grouse and hare.; and (4) The absence of synchrony between the species in the boreonemoral region should be associated with a more diverse diet of predators. — This was the case for red fox diets throughout Sweden. Although all 4 predictions were confirmed, we could not necessarily exclude other hypotheses involving changes in quality or quantity of plant food.