The dynamics of animal populations are driven by both biotic and abiotic factors. Following the seminal work of Volterra , many models assume that direct interactions between species, such as predation, competition or mutualism, play a dominant role in population dynamics. The key role of such biotic factors need not exclude other potentially important processes. Abiotic factors that are likely to play a significant role in the dynamics of an animal community include the climatic, physical and chemical conditions in which the different populations live.
The present work aims at separating the influence of biotic and climatic factors in the dynamics of eleven North-American mammal populations. The animal species we study are bear, beaver, fisher, fox, lynx, marten, mink, muskrat, otter, wolf and wolverine. The variations in these populations are determined by using the Hudson Bay Company's database of annual fur-counts . The basic assumption is that the number of animals captured is directly proportional to the animal populations. This assumption is clearly an approximation but more complete animal-population counts of comparable length do not seem to exist. The lengths of these time series almost equal one century and they allow us to assess the relative role of the different factors that affect these eleven populations, even those that vary on an interdecadal time-scale.
The application of both principal component (PC) analysis and spectral analysis helps separate the different factors that influence the dynamics of the animal community under study. Using a fairly large set of long population records makes the application of PC analysis necessary: it allows us to distinguish between climatic factors that affect all the populations and those that do not. Advanced spectral methods permit us, on the other hand, to detect subtle but systematic variations in one or more of the mammalian populations under study. The results of this combined data analysis approach allow us to conclude that both climatic and intrinsic factors affect this community and to quantify, at least approximately, their relative role.