Within-sex density dependence and population dynamics of red squirrels Sciurus vulgaris
*Present address and correspondence: Luc A. Wauters, Department of Structural and Functional Biology, University of Insubria, Varese, Via J.H. Dunant 3 I-21100 Varese (VA), Italy. E-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org
- 1Social organization and dispersal of red squirrels (Sciurus vulgaris L.) differ between sexes, and intrasexual competition is intense. Therefore, we predicted that demographic parameters should be gender-specific: that is density-dependent factors will be more strongly related to density of the same sex than to density of the opposite sex. We studied the relative importance of within- and between-sex density-dependent factors and of density-independent factors (habitat type, food abundance, winter temperature) on different demographic parameters, in two populations in northern Belgium.
- 2Spring density of males was positively correlated with tree-seed abundance in the previous year, but this was not the case for females. None of the population parameters we measured differed between habitats, indicating that the same density-dependent and density-independent mechanisms prevailed in coniferous and deciduous habitat.
- 3Within each sex, we found several demographic parameters that were dependent on the densities of the same sex; however, none of these parameters was found to be dependent on the density of the opposite sex.
- 4Reproductive rate increased with food abundance and decreased with female density. Adult survival of females decreased with female density in autumn–winter, while survival of adult males in spring–summer increased with the size of the previous year's seed crop.
- 5Immigration rate of males was higher in spring than in autumn, and spring immigration increased with food abundance. Male recruitment rate, in both seasons, increased with food abundance, but was male density dependent. However, spring–summer loss rates also increased when food supplies were good, suggesting that despite high food availability, emigration of juvenile and subadult males increased when intrasexual competition was intense. Recruitment rate of females decreased with increasing female density. After a good seed crop, more subadult females dispersed, but their settlement success (recruitment) was lower at high female density.
- 6Seed crop size positively affected red squirrel densities through increased reproduction, immigration and adult survival of males, but density-dependent reproduction and within-sex density-dependent recruitment of locally born juveniles and dispersing subadults limit the fluctuations in numbers and regulate densities in winter–early spring, as well as in summer.