Occurrence of small mammals in a fragmented landscape: the role of vegetation heterogeneity Academic Article uri icon

abstract

  • Most studies of habitat use by small mammals rely on data from trapping grids. Such studies pertain to habitat use by individuals, which may not reflect population-level requirements. To meet the challenge of landscape change, it is important to understand habitat use by populations across large geographic areas. We surveyed small mammals in 48 forest remnants across a 300 km2 study area, to investigate the influence of vegetation heterogeneity on regional distributions. Information-theoretic techniques were used to evaluate models of vegetation associations. Richness of native mammals was influenced by vegetation condition: disturbed sites supported fewer species. Models for individual species showed the agile antechinus, Antechinus agilis, to prefer structurally diverse forest vegetation, the long-nosed potoroo, Potorous tridactylus, to favour mesic shrub communities, the bush rat, Rattus fuscipes, to prefer complex low cover regardless of composition, the swamp rat, Rattus lutreolus, to favour reduced canopy cover, and the house mouse, Mus domesticus, to prefer disturbed vegetation. To satisfy the needs of all native species, a mosaic of natural vegetation is required. Degradation and simplification of forest vegetation have detrimental consequences. These results highlight the need to consider habitat quality, together with more traditional biogeographic variables, when investigating factors influencing patch occupancy by native fauna in modified landscapes.

publication date

  • 2007

has subject area