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The alternative prey hypothesis revisited: Still valid for willow ptarmigan population dynamics.
PLoS One. 2018; 13(6):e0197289
Publication Type
Journal Article
Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
Jo Inge Breisjøberget
Morten Odden
Per Wegge
Barbara Zimmermann
Harry Andreassen
Author Affiliation
Faculty of Applied Ecology and Agricultural Sciences, Inland Norway University of Applied Sciences, Campus Evenstad, Koppang, Norway.
PLoS One. 2018; 13(6):e0197289
Publication Type
Journal Article
Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
Betula - growth & development
Climate change
Food chain
Foxes - physiology
Models, Biological
Population Dynamics
Rodentia - physiology
Salix - growth & development
The alternative prey hypothesis predicts that the interaction between generalist predators and their main prey is a major driver of population dynamics of alternative prey species. In Fennoscandia, changes in climate and human land use are assumed to alter the dynamics of cyclic small rodents (main prey) and lead to increased densities and range expansion of an important generalist predator, the red fox Vulpes vulpes. In order to better understand the role of these potential changes in community structure on an alternative prey species, willow ptarmigan Lagopus lagopus, we analyzed nine years of population census data from SE Norway to investigate how community interactions affected their population dynamics. The ptarmigan populations showed no declining trend during the study period, and annual variations corresponded with marked periodic small rodent peaks and declines. Population growth and breeding success were highly correlated, and both demographic variables were influenced by an interaction between red fox and small rodents. Red foxes affected ptarmigan negatively only when small rodent abundance was low, which is in accordance with the alternative prey hypothesis. Our results confirm the important role of red fox predation in ptarmigan dynamics, and indicate that if small rodent cycles are disrupted, this may lead to decline in ptarmigan and other alternative prey species due to elevated predation pressure.
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PubMed ID
29874270 View in PubMed
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