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Research article2006Peer reviewed

Identification of landscape elements related to local declines of a boreal grey-sided vole population

Sandström, Per; Ecke, Frauke; Christensen, Pernilla; Ho¨ rnfeldt, Birger


Several studies indicate a long-term decline in numbers of different species of voles in northern Fennoscandia. In boreal Sweden, the long-term decline is most pronounced in the grey-sided vole (Clethrionomys rufocanus). Altered forest landscape structure has been suggested as a possible cause of the decline. However, habitat responses of grey-sided voles at the landscape scale have never been studied. We analyzed such responses of this species in lowland forests in Va¨ sterbotten, northern Sweden. Cumulated spring densities representing 22 local time series from 1980–1999 were obtained by a landscape sampling design and were related to the surrounding landscape structure of 2.5 · 2.5 km plots centred on each of the 22 1-ha trapping plots. In accordance with general knowledge on local habitat preferences of grey-sided voles, our study supported the importance of habitat variables such as boulder fields and old-growth pine forest at the landscape scale. Densities were negatively related to clear cuts. Habitat associations were primarily those of landscape structure related to habitat fragmentation, distance between habitat patches and patch interspersion rather than habitat patch type quantity. Local densities of the grey-sided vole were positively and exponentially correlated with spatial contiguity (measured with the fragmentation index) of old-growth pine forest, indicating critical forest fragmentation thresholds. Our results indicate that altered land use might be involved in the long-term decline of the grey-sided vole in managed forest areas of Fennoscandia. We propose two further approaches to reveal and test responses of this species to changes in landscape structure


1-ha sampling plot; Clear cuts; Fennoscandia; Fragmentation; GIS; Landscape design;

Published in

Landscape Ecology
2006, Volume: 21, pages: 485-497