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Research article, 2006

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

Ecke Frauke, Christensen Pernilla, Sandström Per, Hörnfeldt 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 Clethrionomys rufocanus. Altered forest landscape structure has been suggested as a possible cause of the decline. However, habitat responses of C. rufocanus at the landscape scale have never been studied. We analyzed such responses of C. rufocanus in lowland forests in Västerbotten, northern Sweden. C. rufocanus spring densities representing 22 local time series from 1980-1999, and obtained by a landscape sampling design, were related to 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 C. rufocanus, our study supported the importance of habitat variables such as boulder fields and old-growth pine forest at the landscape scale. Densities of C. rufocanus were negatively related to landscape structure of clear cuts. Habitat associations of C. rufocanus were primarily those of landscape structure related to e.g. habitat fragmentation, distance between habitat patches and patch interspersion rather than habitat patch type quantity. Densities of C. rufocanus 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 C. rufocanus 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; landscape

Published in

Landscape Ecology
2006, Volume: 21, number: 4, pages: 485-497

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    Forest Science

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