Long-term pattern of population dynamics in the field vole from central Europe: cyclic pattern with amplitude dampening
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The subject of population cycles is regarded as controversial due to a number of unsettled questions such as whether or not cyclic patterns are governed by the same processes at high and low latitudes in Europe. Recent evidence suggests that the dynamics at high and low latitudes share the common temporal pattern of vole dynamics referred to as collapsing population cycles. Despite concurrent interest, the key contention around the causal mechanisms that drive population cycles remains a hot topic in ecology. The aims of this study are to supplement information on the seasonal population dynamics of the field vole Microtus agrestis in the Czech Republic by analysing 25 years of time series data. By applying robust estimation procedures, we estimated several parameters to describe population dynamics, such as population variability, amplitude dampening, cycle period, order of the dynamics and the structure of density dependence. The parameters indicate that field vole dynamics in central Europe are highly variable, cyclic dynamics of order two, with peaks in abundance occurring regularly at intervals of 4–5 years. In addition to exhibiting population cycles, the field vole populations show a pattern of dampened amplitude as observed elsewhere in Europe, including northern latitudes. By analysing temporal trends in seasonal abundances, population growth rates and environmental temperatures, we did not obtain evidence to support the hypothesis that amplitude dampening results from the negative effect of increasingly mild winters on winter population growth rates.
KeywordsDensity-dependence structure Microtus agrestis Population cycles Time series analysis
We are grateful to Atle Mysterud, Torbjørn Ergon, Kyrre Kausrud and Frederic Barraquand for their advice and suggestions.
Compliance with ethical standards
The research was carried out in accordance with ethical standards following the Act No. 246/1992 Coll. on the protection of animals against cruelty. The work was funded by grant IGA_PřF_2014021 to E.T., POSTUP I project CZ.1.07/2.3.00/30.0004 to E. T. and A. G., the Grant 159/2013/P Grant Agency of the University of South Bohemia (GAJU) to F. S., and the projects of Faculty of Environmental Sciences Czech University of Life Sciences Prague IGA FES 4290013123166 and LČR 41110-1644-6404 to V. B. and K. Š.
Conflict of interest
The authors have declared that no competing interests exist.
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