Regular, multiannual cycles observed in the population abundance of small mammals in many arctic and subarctic ecosystems have stimulated substantial research, particularly among population ecologists. Hypotheses of mechanisms generating regular cycles include predator-prey interactions, limitation of food resources, and migration or dispersal, as well as abiotic factors such as cyclic climatic variation and environmental stochasticity. In 2004 and 2005, we used indirect methods to estimate trends in population size of Richardson's collared lemmings (Dicrostonyx richardsoni) retrospectively, and evaluated the extent of synchrony between lemming populations at 2 coastal tundra study areas separated by approximately 60 km near Cape Churchill, Manitoba, Canada. We collected scars on willow plants (Salix) resulting from lemming feeding. Ages of scars ranged from 0 to 13 years at both study areas. Scar-age frequency appeared cyclic and we used nonlinear Poisson regression to model the observed scar-age frequency. Lemming populations cycled with 2.8-year periodicity and the phase of the cycle was synchronous between the 2 study areas. We suggest that our approach could be applied in multiple settings and may provide the most efficient way to gather data on small mammals across both space and time in a diversity of landscapes. ?? 2008 American Society of Mammalogists.
Additional Publication Details
Trends in abundance of collared lemmings near Cape Churchill, Manitoba, Canada