Effects of habitat modification on cotton rat population dynamics and rodent community structure

UNCG Author/Contributor (non-UNCG co-authors, if there are any, appear on document)
Matina C. Kalcounis-Rüppell, Professor (Creator)
The University of North Carolina at Greensboro (UNCG )
Web Site: http://library.uncg.edu/

Abstract: Concerns over climate change and finite fossil fuels have generated interest in biofuels. Switchgrass (Panicum virgatum), a biofuel feedstock, was planted in intensively managed loblolly pine (Pinus taeda) stands to investigate sustainability of this system for producing an alternative energy source. We hypothesized that changes in understory habitat conditions caused by intercropping switchgrass in pine stands would affect rodent population and community dynamics within three years. Therefore, we assessed effects of three treatments (control pine, switchgrass intercropped in pine, and switchgrass monocrop) on rodent population (abundance, survival, and recruitment) and community (diversity, richness, evenness, and community assemblages) measures. We conducted vegetation surveys and live-trapping during 2013–2015 summers in Kemper County, Mississippi, USA. We conducted 6 trapping sessions each summer (n = 14,112 trap nights per year) and captured 1,733 cotton rats (Sigmodon hispidus), 102 Oryzomys palustris, 31 Mus musculus, 28 Reithrodontomys fulvescens, 22 Reithrodontomys humulis, 20 Peromyscus leucopus, 9 Microtus pinetorum, 9 Peromyscus gossypinus, and 2 Neotoma floridana. We found greater cotton rat abundance and lower recruitment in monocrop versus control plots. Rodent diversity was lower in monocrop than control plots. Intercropped plots had intermediate levels of cotton rat abundance and recruitment, and rodent diversity. More dispersal may have occurred in monocrop plots because of high population abundance and limited habitat availability. Cotton rat survival and rodent community assemblage were similar among treatments but differed among years. Although rodents responded negatively to monocrop plots, our results suggested intercropped plots would be an appropriate management practice in pine plantations to produce biofuel feedstocks while maintaining rodent diversity.

Additional Information

Forest Ecology and Management. 376: 238-246
Language: English
Date: 2016
Intensive forestry, Pinus taeda, Panicum virgatum, Intercropping, Biofuel, Sigmodon hispidus

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