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Landscape structure and the long-term decline of cyclic grey-sided voles in Fennoscandia

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Changes in forest landscape structure have been suggested as a likely contributing factor behind the long-term decline in the numbers of cyclic grey-sided voles (Clethrionomys rufocanus) in northern Fennoscandian lowland regions in contrast to mountain regions due to the absence of forest management in the mountains. This study, for the first time, formally explored landscape structure in 29 lowland (LF) and 14 mountain forest (MF) landscapes (each 2.5 × 2.5 km) in northern Sweden, and related the results to the cumulated spring trapping index of the grey-sided vole in 2002–2006. The grey-sided vole showed striking contrasts in dynamics close in space and time. The MF landscapes were characterized by larger patches and less fragmentation of preferred forest types. The grey-sided vole was trapped in all of 14 analyzed MF landscapes but only in three out of 29 of the LF landscapes. MF and LF landscapes with grey-sided vole occurrence were characterized by similar focal forest patch size (mean 357 ha, minimum 82 ha and mean 360 ha, minimum 79 ha, respectively). In contrast, these MF compared to the LF landscapes were characterized by larger patches of preferred forest types and less fragmented preferred forest types and by a lower proportion of clear-cut areas. The present results suggest that landscape structure is important for the abundance of grey-sided voles in both regions. However, in the mountains the change from more or less seasonal dynamics to high-amplitude cycles between the mid 1990s and 2000s cannot be explained by changes in landscape structure.

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Åsa Sehlstedt and Henrik Berg, Swedish National Land Survey, Luleå, produced the lowland vegetation maps. The vole monitoring was funded by grants from the Swedish Natural Science Research Centre to A. Lindroth, from Stiftelsen Seth M. Kempes Minne to A. Lindroth and B. Hörnfeldt, from C. F. Lundströms Stiftelse, Längmanska kulturfonden, Hierta-Retzius Fond, Resestipendiefonden, Olle och Signhild Engkvists Stiftelser and by the Swedish Environmental Protection Agency via their National Environmental Monitoring Program to B. Hörnfeldt, from ‘Carl Tryggers Stiftelse för Vetenskaplig Forskning’ and the Swedish Research Council for Environment, Agricultural Sciences and Spatial Planning (Formas) to F. Ecke and B. Hörnfeldt (21.0/2004-0393) and from the Technical Faculty Board of Luleå University of Technology to F. Ecke.

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Correspondence to Frauke Ecke.

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Ecke, F., Christensen, P., Rentz, R. et al. Landscape structure and the long-term decline of cyclic grey-sided voles in Fennoscandia. Landscape Ecol 25, 551–560 (2010).

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