Original Paper

European Journal of Forest Research

, Volume 131, Issue 2, pp 389-400

First online:

Are endoparasites of common shrews (Sorex araneus) sensitive to tree species conversion in sub-Arctic birch forests?

  • Therese SigurdsenAffiliated withDepartment of Arctic and Marine Biology, University of Tromsø
  • , Åshild Ø. PedersenAffiliated withDepartment of Arctic and Marine Biology, University of Tromsø Email author 
  • , Nigel G. YoccozAffiliated withDepartment of Arctic and Marine Biology, University of Tromsø
  • , Voitto HaukisalmiAffiliated withFinnish Forest Research Institute, Vantaa Research Unit
  • , Rolf A. ImsAffiliated withDepartment of Arctic and Marine Biology, University of Tromsø

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Shrews (Soricomorpha) are among the most numerous small forest dwelling mammals in boreal forests ecosystems. In Norway large areas of sub-Arctic birch (Betula pubescens) forests have gradually been replaced by non-native spruce (Picea abies) plantations during the last century. This conversion has led to changes in forest floor vegetation and soil conditions which negatively influence invertebrates serving as prey for shrews and intermediate hosts for shrew endoparasites (helminths). In this trapping study we assessed if abundance and individual condition of common shrews (Sorex araneus) and prevalence and species richness of associated helminths, responded to spruce plantations in a manner that could indicate community level changes. Shrews colonized plantations in autumn, but never attained abundances comparable to the birch forest types. Shrews in plantations had lower body mass compared to those trapped in the birch forests. We identified 15 helminth species, and detected large differences in prevalence. Only one common helminth had significantly higher prevalence in the birch forest. By analysing prevalence of all species jointly, the highest prevalence was in moist birch forests and lowest in spruce plantations. Species richness estimates were lower in plantations, however not statistically significant. Although prevalence and species richness of helminths in common shrews were affected by tree species conversion, we judge the responses to be too weak and uncertain and the sampling and analysis too laborious to make shrew endoparasites suitable for monitoring purposes. However, monitoring abundance of common shrews is likely an efficient way of detecting changes in the forest floor fauna resulting from modern forestry practices.


Helminths Indicator Picea abies Prevalence Species richness Sorex araneus