Density-dependent reproduction causes winter crashes in a common vole population
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Common voles in western France exhibit three-year population cycles with winter crashes after large outbreaks. During the winter of 2011–2012, we monitored survival, reproduction, recruitment and population growth rate of common voles at different densities (from low to outbreak densities) in natura to better understand density dependence of demographic parameters. Between October and April, the number of animals decreased irrespective of initial density. However, the decline was more pronounced when October density was higher (loss of ≈54 % of individuals at low density and 95 % at high density). Using capture-mark-recapture models with Pradel’s temporal symmetry approach, we found a negative effect of density on recruitment and reproduction. In contrast, density had a slightly positive effect on survival indicating that mortality did not drive the steeper declines in animal numbers at high density. We discuss these results in a population cycle framework, and suggest that crashes after outbreaks could reflect negative effects of density dependence on reproduction rather than changes in mortality rates.
KeywordsCMR Density dependence Microtus arvalis Population cycles Recruitment Survival
We are especially grateful for the help in the field provided by: Helene Lisse, Ronan Marrec, Marilyn Roncoroni, Mathieu Liaigre, Catherine Michel, Pomme Pinot, Alexandra Scohier, Jean-François Blanc and Samantha Yeo. We thank Laurent Crespin for constructive criticism, and Juliette Bloor for insightful editing and numerous suggestions. We also thank the anonymous reviewers and the editorial board of Population Ecology for their extensive and constructive comments that improved the manuscript. Finally, we thank the nine farmers that agreed to host the study in their fields. Partial funding was supported by EU BiodivERsA project “Ecocycles”. AP was supported by a Ph.D. grant from University Pierre & Marie Curie, Paris, France.
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