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Climate Research

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CR 32:99-108 (2006)  -  doi:10.3354/cr032099

Winter climate and plant productivity predict abundances of small herbivores in central Europe

Emil Tkadlec1,2,*, Jiri Zboril1, Jan Losík1, Petr Gregor1, Lenka Lisická1

1Palacky University, Faculty of Science, Department of Ecology & Environmental Sciences, tr. Svobody 26, 77146 Olomouc, Czech Republic
2Institute of Vertebrate Biology, Academy of Sciences, Studenec 122, Brno, Czech Republic

ABSTRACT: We studied winter climate influences on central European small herbivores by testing the prediction that direct physical effects of winter climate should be more pronounced in herbivores living above ground/snow than in subnivean/fossorial ones. Using correlation analysis and autoregressive modeling, we found that population growth rates of European hares, representing the former class of herbivores, are more efficiently predicted by the winter NAO index than those of common voles, representing the latter class of herbivores. We demonstrate that, whereas in hares the NAO index outperformed crop yield indices, used here as a proxy for plant production variability, it was crop yield indices that more effectively predicted population change in voles. These results suggest that the relative importance of direct and indirect effects of winter climate on herbivores may be related to their body size, the major determinant of above ground/snow or subnivean/fossorial mode of life.

KEY WORDS: Climate effects · Common vole · European hare · NAO · Plant productivity · Crop yield · Central Europe

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