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Population Ecology

, Volume 54, Issue 2, pp 239–250 | Cite as

Elevational gradient in the cyclicity of a forest-defoliating insect

  • Kyle J. HaynesEmail author
  • Andrew M. Liebhold
  • Derek M. Johnson
Original article

Abstract

Observed changes in the cyclicity of herbivore populations along latitudinal gradients and the hypothesis that shifts in the importance of generalist versus specialist predators explain such gradients has long been a matter of intense interest. In contrast, elevational gradients in population cyclicity are largely unexplored. We quantified the cyclicity of gypsy moth populations along an elevational gradient by applying wavelet analysis to spatially referenced 31-year records (1975–2005) of defoliation. Based on geographically weighted regression and nonlinear regression, we found either a hump-shaped or plateauing relationship between elevation and the cyclicity of gypsy moth populations and a positive relationship between cyclicity and the density of the gypsy moth’s preferred host-tree species. The potential effects of elevational gradients in the density of generalist predators and preferred host-tree species on the cyclicity of gypsy moth populations were evaluated with mechanistic simulation models. The models suggested that an elevational gradient in the densities of preferred host tree species could partially explain elevational patterns of gypsy moth cyclicity. Results from a model assuming a type-III functional response of generalist predators to changes in gypsy moth density were inconsistent with the observed elevational gradient in gypsy moth cyclicity. However, a model with a more realistic type-II functional response gave results roughly consistent with the empirical findings. In contrast to classical studies on the effects of generalist predators on prey population cycles, our model with a type-II functional response predicts a unimodal relationship between generalist-predator density and the cyclicity of gypsy moth populations.

Keywords

Gypsy moth Lymantria dispar Peromyscus leucopus Population cycle Periodicity 

Notes

Acknowledgments

Gino Luzader provided valuable assistance with the gypsy moth defoliation database. Jonathan Walter provided useful comments on an earlier draft of this publication. Funding for this project was provided by a USDA-NRI Grant (2006-35306-17264) to D.M. Johnson.

Supplementary material

10144_2012_305_MOESM1_ESM.pdf (99 kb)
Supplementary material 1 (PDF 99 kb)

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Copyright information

© The Society of Population Ecology and Springer 2012

Authors and Affiliations

  • Kyle J. Haynes
    • 1
    Email author
  • Andrew M. Liebhold
    • 2
  • Derek M. Johnson
    • 3
  1. 1.The Blandy Experimental FarmUniversity of VirginiaBoyceUSA
  2. 2.USDA Forest ServiceNorthern Research StationMorgantownUSA
  3. 3.Department of BiologyVirginia Commonwealth UniversityRichmondUSA

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