Population cycles in voles and lemmings: state of the science and future directions

  title={Population cycles in voles and lemmings: state of the science and future directions},
  author={Madan K. Oli},
  journal={Mammal Review},
  • M. Oli
  • Published 1 July 2019
  • Environmental Science
  • Mammal Review
Although periodic outbreaks in rodent numbers have been observed throughout recorded history, Elton (1924) was the first to scrutinise the phenomenon of multiannual population fluctuations scientifically. In this exceptionally insightful paper, Elton (1924) not only synthesised information on cyclic fluctuations in abundance of many animal species, but also extensively explored causes and consequences of population cycles with a particular focus on lemmings and voles. He suggested that the… 

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Contribution of late-litter juveniles to the population dynamics of snowshoe hares.

It is found that fourth-litter juveniles occur consistently during the increase phase of each cycle, but are rare and have low over-winter survival suggesting that population increase is unlikely to be caused by their occurrence.

Numerical response of predators to large variations of grassland vole abundance, long-term community change and prey switches

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Role of individual dispersal in genetic resilience in fluctuating populations of the gray‐sided vole Myodes rufocanus

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Rodents are classical model species to investigate spatial synchrony in population fluctuation. Yet, previous studies have been strongly biased geographically toward high latitude (boreal ecosystem)

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Predator–prey relationships are of great significance to ecosystems, and their effects on the population dynamics of voles and lemmings (Microtinae) in Boreal and Arctic environments have long been

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Vole cycles and predation in temperate and boreal zones of Europe

A new version of the predation hypothesis is proposed to explain low-amplitude population cycles of voles in temperate Europe, including the Kielder Forest, because generalists can have a functional response that is destabilizing in the neighbourhood of the equilibrium point.

Linking climate change to lemming cycles

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Population Cycles in Small Mammals

Europe-Wide Dampening of Population Cycles in Keystone Herbivores

Using a large compilation of time series of vole abundances, it is demonstrated consistent cycle amplitude dampening associated with a reduction in winter population growth, although regulatory processes responsible for cyclicity have not been lost.

Experimental tests of predation and food hypotheses for population cycles of voles

It is concluded that predation inhibits an increase in vole populations until predation pressure declines, thus maintaining the low phase of the cycle, but also that population cycles in voles are not primarily driven by plant–herbivore interactions.

Dynamics of Small Mammal Populations: A Review

A review of the literature on small mammals suggests that average population levels are largely determined by a balance of the positive effects of resources and the negative effects of enemies and that the strengths of these effects vary from habitat to habitat.

Dynamic effects of predators on cyclic voles: field experimentation and model extrapolation

It is concluded that predators may indeed generate the cyclic population fluctuations of voles observed in northern Europe and this supports the findings of the field experiment and is in agreement with the predation hypothesis.


The predation hypothesis is reviewed and it is considered it unlikely that the phenotypic and genotypic composition of pop- ulations would be instrumental for generating the broad patterns in rodent oscillations, which may have some population-dynamic consequences.