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Effects of ENSO-linked climate and vegetation on population dynamics of sympatric rodent species in semiarid grasslands of Inner Mongolia, China

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El Niño Southern Oscillation (ENSO) linked climate has been known to be associated with several rodent species, but its effects on rodent community at both spatial and temporal scales are not well studied. In this study, we investigated the possible causal chain relating ENSO, precipitation, temperature, and vegetation index (normalized difference vegetation index, NDVI) to rodent abundance for 14 sympatric rodent species in 21 counties of semiarid grasslands in Inner Mongolia, China, from 1982 to 2006. We found that both precipitation and temperature showed a generally direct positive effect on rodent abundance in many species in the current year, but indirect effects that operate through NDVI in the current or following year could have a reverse effect on abundance. We described one ENSO-linked precipitation bottom-up chain and three ENSO-linked temperature bottom-up chains. These observed bottom-up links reveal that in El Niño years, or 1 year after La Niña years, or 2 years after El Niño years, ENSO-driven climate or vegetation factors tend to increase population abundances of many sympatric rodent species in this region. We also found time-lag effects and the life-history strategy (i.e., functional groups of hibernating behavior, activity rhythm, or food habits) also contribute to the observed complicated effects of SOI on precipitation, temperature, NDVI, and ultimately rodent abundance.

Document Type: Research Article


Affiliations: 1: State Key Laboratory of Integrated Management of Pest Insects and Rodents in Agriculture, Institute of Zoology, Chinese Academy of Science Beijing, People’s Republic of China. 2: Inner Mongolia Center for Endemic Diseases Control and Research, Huhehot, People’s Republic of China. 3: Information Management Group for the Synthesis Center of Chinese Ecosystem Research Network (CERN), Institute of Geographic Sciences and Natural Resources Research, Chinese Academy of Science, CN-Beijing, People’s Republic of China. 4: Department of Zoology, University of British Columbia, Vancouver, BC V6T 1Z4, Canada.

Publication date: 2011-08-22

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