How do variations in seasonality affect population cycles?

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Seasonality is an important component in many population systems, and factors such as latitude, altitude and proximity to the coastline affect the extent of the seasonal fluctuations. In this paper, we ask how changes in seasonal fluctuations impact on the population cycles. We use the Fennoscandian vole system as a case study, focusing on variations in the length of the breeding season. We use a predator-prey model that includes generalist and specialist predation alongside seasonal forcing. Using a combination of bifurcation analysis and direct simulations, we consider the effects of varying both the level of generalist predation and the length of the breeding season; these are the main changes that occur over a latitudinal gradient in Fennoscandia. We predict that varying the breeding season length leads to changes in the period of the multi-year cycles, with a higher period for shorter breeding season lengths. This concurs with the gradient of periodicity found in Fennoscandia. The Fennoscandian vole system is only one of many populations that are affected by geographical and temporal changes in seasonality; thus our results highlight the importance of considering these changes in other population systems.
Original languageEnglish
Article number20122714
JournalProceedings of the Royal Society B: Biological Sciences
Issue number1754
Early online date16 Jan 2013
Publication statusPublished - Mar 2013


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