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Keywords:

  • boreal ecosystem;
  • cycle;
  • population dynamics;
  • vole;
  • wavelet analysis

Abstract

Multiannual cycles in the abundance of voles and other animals have been collapsing in the last decades. It has been proposed that this phenomenon is ‘climatically forced’ by milder winters. We here consider the dynamics of bank and field voles during more than two decades in two localities (170 km apart) in southern Finland. Using wavelet analysis, we show that a clear 3-year cycle disappeared in the mid 1990s. However, the vole cycle returned in both localities after about 5 years despite winters becoming increasingly milder. In both localities, vole cycles were mainly determined by bank voles after the period of noncyclic dynamics, whereas field voles were dominant before this irregularity. Wavelet coherency analysis shows that spatial synchrony temporarily broke down during the period of noncyclic dynamics, but was fully restored afterwards. The return of the cycle despite ongoing rapid climate change argues against ‘climatic forcing’ as a general explanation for loss of cycles. Rather, the population-dynamical consequences of climate change may be dependent on the local species composition and mechanism of delayed density dependence.