Dissecting geographic variation in population synchrony using the common vole in central Europe as a test bed

Ana R. Gouveia, Ottar N. Bjørnstad, Emil Tkadlec

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25 Scopus citations


Spatial synchrony of population fluctuations is ubiquitous in nature. Theoretical models suggest that correlated environmental stochasticity, dispersal, and trophic interactions are important promoters of synchrony in nature to leave characteristic signatures of distance-dependent decays in synchrony. Recent refinements of this theory have clarified how distance-decay curves may steepen if local dynamics are governed by different density-dependent feedbacks and how synchrony should vary regionally if the importance and correlation of environmental stochasticity is location-specific. We analysed spatiotemporal data for the common vole, Microtus arvalis from 49 districts in the Czech Republic to examine the pattern of population synchrony between 2000 and 2014. By extending the nonparametric covariation function, we develop a quantitative method that allows a dissection of the effects of distance and additional variables such as altitude on synchrony. To examine the pattern of local synchrony, we apply the noncentered local-indicators of spatial association (ncLISA) which highlights areas with different degrees of synchrony than expected by the region-wide average. Additionally, in order to understand the obtained pattern of local spatial correlations, we have regressed LISA results against the proportion of forest in each district. The common vole abundances fluctuated strongly and exhibited synchronous dynamics with the typical tendency for a decline of synchrony with increasing distance but, not with altitude. The correlation between the neighbor districts decreases as the proportion of forest increases. Forested areas are suboptimum habitats and are strongly avoided by common voles. The investigation of spatiotemporal dynamics in animal populations is a key issue in ecology. Although the majority of studies are focused on testing hypotheses about which mechanisms are involved in shaping this dynamics it is crucial to understand the sources of variation involved in order to understand the underlying processes.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)212-218
Number of pages7
JournalEcology and Evolution
Issue number1
StatePublished - Jan 1 2016

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Ecology, Evolution, Behavior and Systematics
  • Ecology
  • Nature and Landscape Conservation


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