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Porcupine feeding scars and climatic data show ecosystem effects of the solar cycle.

Authors
  • Klvana, Ilya
  • Berteaux, Dominique
  • Cazelles, Bernard
Type
Published Article
Journal
The American Naturalist
Publisher
The University of Chicago Press
Publication Date
Sep 01, 2004
Volume
164
Issue
3
Pages
283–297
Identifiers
PMID: 15478085
Source
Medline
License
Unknown

Abstract

Using North American porcupine (Erethizon dorsatum) feeding scars on trees as an index of past porcupine abundance, we have found that porcupine populations have fluctuated regularly over the past 130 years in the Bas St. Laurent region of eastern Quebec, with superimposed periodicities of 11 and 22 years. Coherency and phase analyses showed that this porcupine population cycle has closely followed the 11- and 22-year solar activity cycles. Fluctuations in local precipitation and temperature were also cyclic and closely related to both the solar cycle and the porcupine cycle. Our results suggest that the solar cycle indirectly sets the rhythm of population fluctuations of the most abundant vertebrate herbivore in the ecosystem we studied. We hypothesize that the solar cycle has sufficiently important effects on the climate along the southern shore of the St. Lawrence estuary to locally influence terrestrial ecosystem functioning. This constitutes strong evidence for the possibility of a causal link between solar variability and terrestrial ecology at the decadal timescale and local spatial scale, which confirms results obtained at greater temporal and spatial scales.

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