The macroecology of population dynamics: animal population cycles in the Northern hemisphere

B.E. Kendall, J. Prendergast, and O.N. Bjørnstad: The macroecology of population dynamics - taxonomic and biogeographic patterns in population cycles

Ecology Letters (1998) 1:160-164


Regular cycles in population abundance are fascinating phenomena, but are they common in natural populations?  How are they distributed among taxa?  Are there differences between different regions of the world, or along latitudinal gradients?  Using the new Global Population Dynamics Database we analyzed nearly 700 long (25+ years) time series of animal field populations, looking for large-scale patterns in cycles.  Nearly 30% of the time series were cyclic. Cycle incidence varied among taxonomic classes, being most common in mammal and fish populations, but only in fish did cycle incidence vary among orders.  Cycles were equally common in European and North American populations, but more common in Atlantic fish than Pacific fish.  The incidence of cycles increased with latitude in mammals only.  There was no latitudinal gradient in cycle period, but cycle amplitude declined with latitude in some groups of fish. Even after considering the biases in the data source and expected type I error, population cycles seem common enough to warrant ecological attention.


Key words: Complex population dynamics; Latitudinal gradients; Long-term population data; Population cycles; Time-series analysis.