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Do mountain hare populations cycle
- Newey, Scott, Willebrand, Tomas, Haydon, Daniel T., Dahl, Fredrik, Aebischer, Nicholas J., Smith, Adam A., Thirgood, Simon J.
- Oikos 2007 v.116 no.9 pp. 1547-1557
- autocorrelation, hares, mountains, periodicity, population dynamics, questionnaires, Finland, Italy, Norway, Russia, Scotland, Sweden, Switzerland
- We investigated the occurrence and distribution of multi-annual cycles in abundance of mountain hare populations across a wide area of their range in northern Europe. We analysed 125 time-series of mountain hare abundance indexed from hunting bag records and questionnaire responses from Scotland, Sweden, Finland and Switzerland. We also reanalysed 17 previously published time-series based on hunting bag records and snow track indices from mountain hare populations in Scotland, Norway, Sweden, Finland, Russia and Italy. Autocorrelation analysis showed that 45% of mountain hare populations showed evidence of cycles, characterised by significant negative autocorrelations at half or the whole cycle period. The amplitude and periodicity of cycles varied between and within countries. Time-series in Scotland were characterised by high-amplitude weak cycles with a mean periodicity of nine years but with a range of 4-15 years. Norwegian and Swedish time-series revealed low amplitude weak cycles with a 3-7 year period. Finnish time-series showed low amplitude cycles with a 4-11 year period. Alpine time-series were predominantly non-cyclic, while the limited number of series from Russia showed high amplitude weak cycles with an 8-11 year period. The results reveal that mountain hare populations show a wide range of population dynamics with distinct regional differences in periodicity, amplitude and density dependent structure of cycles. These findings suggest that different factors may limit or regulate mountain hare populations in different regions of Europe thus supporting the results of recent field studies.