Springer Online Journal Archives 1860-2000
Abstract The hypothesis that food resources regulate population size was tested in Columbian ground squirrels, Spermophilus columbianus, from 1981 to 1986 in southwestern Alberta, Canada. Two replicate populations received supplemental food resources from 1981 to 1983, and were subsequently monitored until 1986. Two reference (unmanipulated) populations were monitored throughout the 6 years. During the experiment, dramatic increases in population size of about 500% occurred. After supplementation, spring populations declined by about 20% per year, under conditions that produced stressful shortages of food (as evidenced by significant decreases in body mass of ground squirrels). The demographic process that contributed most to increasing and decreasing experimental populations was production of yearlings, through changes in reproductive success and survival of young. Changes in migration contributed secondarily to changes in population size, and changes in adult survival were least important. While similarities of demographic processes were evident between replicates during population increases, a dramatic decrease in survival of young contributed to population decline at one replicate, and “normal” levels of reproduction and survival were sufficient to produce a decline in the other replicate. Demographic mechanisms may vary, but population regulation of mammalian populations appears strongly dependent on food resources.
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