When Predators Matter! Study of Voles on Arctic Island Advances Knowledge of Small-Mammal Population Dynamics
Published:14 Oct.2021    Source:Canadian Museum of Nature

A decades-long study of voles on the Norwegian archipelago of Svalbard is offering insights into a longstanding puzzle of Arctic ecology -- effectively, what drives the well-established population cycles of small Arctic mammals, such as voles and lemmings.

These plant-eating rodents are among the most populous mammals in the Arctic and are critical parts of the food web. The results, published online in the journal PNAS (Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences) by a team of Canadian and Norwegian scientists, suggest the importance of predators as a primary factor driving the regular, three-to-five-year cycles of abundance in small mammal populations. In essence, the study shows that bottom-up, herbivore-plant interactions fail to generate such population cycles.