Document Detail

Population limitation of the northern red-backed vole in the boreal forests of northern Canada.
MedLine Citation:
PMID:  17032359     Owner:  NLM     Status:  MEDLINE    
1. Across the vast boreal forests of North America, no population cycles in Clethrionomys species occur. In Eurasia, by contrast, some Clethrionomys populations of the same species undergo regular 3-5-year cycles. We examined the effects of nutrients, food, competitors, predators and climate on population limitation in the northern red-backed vole (Clethrionomys rutilus Pallas) in the south-western Yukon to determine why this difference occurs. 2. From 1986 to 1996 we added food, reduced large mammal predators and excluded snowshoe hares (Lepus americanus Erxleben) from large plots and found that none of these manipulations affected red-backed vole abundance. Adding nutrients as nitrogen, phosphorus and potassium (NPK) fertilizer had a slight negative effect, probably acting through a reduction in dwarf shrub productivity caused by competition from grasses. 3. We monitored weasel populations directly through trapping and indirectly through snow tracking. Predation by these vole specialists was irrelevant as a limiting factor most of the time because voles in this area do not reach the densities needed to sustain weasel populations. Other boreal forest mammal and bird predators did not focus on red-backed voles. However, when red-backed vole populations increased in the forest and Microtus voles also increased in the meadows, weasel populations increased and may have temporarily depressed red-backed voles in winter. 4. We monitored one major potential food, white spruce seeds, but seed fall was not related to population changes in red-backed voles, even after mast years. 5. We assessed the impact of weather variables, and the average depth of the snow pack during winter (October-March) was correlated directly with vole demography, having both direct effects in that year and delayed effects in the following year. 6. Our long-term trapping data (1973-96) indicate that Clethrionomys populations fluctuated, with peaks following hare peaks by 2-3 years. 7. We propose that the key variable limiting these vole populations is overwinter survival, and this is a function of overwinter food from berries produced during the previous summer by dwarf shrubs. These shrubs may be stimulated by abundant moisture from winter snows or by periodic fertilization from large quantities of pellets produced at snowshoe hare peaks.
Rudy Boonstra; Charles J Krebs
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Publication Detail:
Type:  Journal Article; Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't    
Journal Detail:
Title:  The Journal of animal ecology     Volume:  75     ISSN:  0021-8790     ISO Abbreviation:  J Anim Ecol     Publication Date:  2006 Nov 
Date Detail:
Created Date:  2006-10-11     Completed Date:  2006-11-29     Revised Date:  -    
Medline Journal Info:
Nlm Unique ID:  0376574     Medline TA:  J Anim Ecol     Country:  England    
Other Details:
Languages:  eng     Pagination:  1269-84     Citation Subset:  IM    
Centre for the Neurobiology of Stress, Department of Life Sciences, University of Toronto at Scarborough, 1265 Military Trail, Scarborough, ONT, M1C 1A4, Canada.
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MeSH Terms
Arvicolinae / physiology*
Mustelidae / physiology
Population Dynamics
Predatory Behavior / physiology
Time Factors
Reg. No./Substance:

From MEDLINE®/PubMed®, a database of the U.S. National Library of Medicine

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