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Please use this identifier to cite or link to this item: http://hdl.handle.net/1807/9549

Title: Population limitation of the northern red-backed vole in the boreal forests of northern Canada.
Authors: Boonstra, Rudy
Krebs, Charles J.
Keywords: dwarf shrub berry production
overwinter survival
snowshoe hare cycles
spruce seedds
pellet fertilization
weasel predation
winter snowpack
Issue Date: 2007
Publisher: British Ecological Society: Blackwells
Citation: Journal of Animal Ecology 75:1269–1284
Abstract: 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 southwestern Yukon to determine why this difference occurs. 2. From 1986-96 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 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 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 directly correlated with vole demography, having both direct effects in that year and delayed effects in the following year. 6. Our long-term trapping data (1973-1996) indicate that Clethrionomys populations fluctuated, with peaks follow 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.
URI: http://hdl.handle.net/1807/9549
Appears in Collections:Biology

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