Voles and climate in Norway: Is the abundance of herbivorous species inversely related to summer temperature?
Journal article, Peer reviewed
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OriginalversjonActa Oecologica. 2018 10.1016/j.actao.2018.12.002
For several mammalian species, both population levels and distribution ranges are predicted to change due to changing habitat conditions caused by climate change. A general decrease in the amplitude of small rodent population cycles in northern Europe since the late 1980s has commonly been attributed to a lack of permanent snow cover during winter, or to unfavourable snow conditions. An alternative explanation is that increasing summer temperatures and an extended growing season are unfavourable for herbivorous rodents, by reducing the forage quality. If so, the negative effect should be stronger for the strictly herbivorous Microtus voles than for the herbivorous-granivorous Myodes voles. In a previous study small rodents were snap trapped in 22 regions in Norway during 1971–1979. We found that the trapping index of Microtus voles, but not Myodes voles, in this study was negatively related to summer temperatures. Both in this study and in a snap trapping study from 1994 to 2015, conducted in 13 study areas in Norway, the proportion of Microtus voles among voles captured was negatively related to summer temperatures. Summer temperature was a better predictor than snow depth, but both variables contributed significantly in multiple regression models. We conclude that summer temperature is likely to be a more important factor than snow cover for the population dynamics of herbivorous voles in northern Europe.Voles and climate in Norway: Is the abundance of herbivorous species inversely related to summer temperature?