Spatio-temporal covariation in abundance between the cyclic common vole Microtus arvalis and other small mammal prey species

David Carslake, Thomas Cornulier, P. Inchausti, Vincent Bretagnolle

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

11 Citations (Scopus)


Populations of the common vole Microtus arvalis in mid-western France show cyclic dynamics with a three-year period. Studies of cyclic vole populations in Fennoscandia have often found inter-specific synchrony between the voles and other small mammals which share the voles' predators. Although predators are central to the favoured mechanism to explain Fennoscandian vole cycles and the spatial variation of small mammal populations, their role in vole cycles elsewhere, including France, is less clear. Establishing whether alternative prey species in France cycle in parallel with voles as they do in Fennoscandia is thus an important step towards understanding the generality of predators' influence on cyclic vole populations. We applied spatial and temporal autocorrelation and cross-correlation methods to French populations of M. arvalis and two sympatric non-cyclic small mammal species, Apodemus sylvaticus and Crocidura russula. Patterns of time-lagged cross-correlation between the abundance of M. arvalis and the other two species suggested synchrony in their dynamics beyond that expected of stochastic environmental variation, and indicated a weak three-year cycle in A. sylvaticus and C. russula that was in phase with that of M. arvalis. We interpret the synchrony between these species as the effect of shared predators and environmental stochasticity. Abundance within species showed weak spatial autocorrelation in June at scales consistent with dispersal being the mechanism responsible, but a more general lack of spatial structure within and between species was consistent with the strong spatial synchrony at regional scales often found in fluctuations of small mammal abundance.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)327-335
Number of pages9
Issue number2
Early online date23 Aug 2010
Publication statusPublished - Apr 2011


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