E. Framstad, N.C. Stenseth, O.N. Bjørnstad & W. Falck: Limit cycles in Norwegian lemmings - Tensions between phase-dependence and density-dependence

Proceedings of the Royal Society of London B (1997) 264:31-38


Ever since Elton, the 3-5 year density cycles in lemmings (and other microtines) in Fennoscandia have troubled scientists. Explanations have involved intrinsic regulation and trophic interactions. We have analysed yearly changes in fall abundances for lemmings over 25 years from two local mountain sites in South Norway. These time series appear to have an underlying nonlinear structure of order two. Fitting a piece-wise linear threshold model of maximum order two, the most parsimonious model was, however, of first order for both series. The resulting dynamics from this model is a limit cycle. Reformulating the model in terms of abundances yields a model which combines (delayed) density-dependent effects and the influence of the cyclic phase. The delayed density-dependence of one part of the model is consistent with an effect of specialist predators during the peak and crash phases of the cycle, although other trophic interactions cannot be excluded.