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Interactions between gray-sided voles (Clethrionomys rufucanus) and bilberry (Vaccinium myrtillus), their main winter food plant

Dahlgren, Jonas, Oksanen, Lauri, Sjödin, Maria, Olofsson, Johan
Oecologia 2007 v.152 no.3 pp. 525-532
Clethrionomys, Vaccinium myrtillus, biomass, food plants, food production, grazing, herbivores, islands, palatability, population structure, predators, voles
We compared the abundance, population structure and palatability of bilberry ramets on vole-free islands, islands with voles but no predators (predator-free islands) and mainland sites with both voles and predators. As expected, bilberry biomass was strongly correlated with the herbivory pressure exerted by the voles, since it was significantly lower on the mainland, and much (>80%) lower on the predator-free islands, than on the vole-free islands. However, another finding, which conflicts with hypotheses postulating that herbivory generally induces plant defenses, was that voles preferred ramets from predator-free islands. Bilberry plants were fairly tolerant to grazing since they compensated for some of the lost tissue by producing more new ramets. This response should promote stability in the plant-herbivore interaction by reducing the impact of past grazing on current food production and thus minimizing time delays in the interactions that could potentially generate population cycles.