Effect of road density on abundance of white-footed mice
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- Rytwinski, T. & Fahrig, L. Landscape Ecol (2007) 22: 1501. doi:10.1007/s10980-007-9134-2
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While several studies have demonstrated that roads can act as barriers to small mammal movement, the relationship between road density and small mammal abundance has not yet been investigated. In southeastern Ontario, Peromyscus leucopus (white-footed mice) suffer high over-winter mortality rates, resulting in small springtime populations and frequent local extinctions. Peromyscus leucopus movement is known to be inhibited by roads, which should result in lower rates of immigration into and recolonization of habitats in landscapes with high road density. We tested two predictions: (1) Forest sites situated in landscapes with high road densities have a higher chance of P. leucopus being absent during the early spring than forest sites situated in landscapes with low road densities and (2) P. leucopus populations during the summer are smaller in forest sites situated in landscapes with high road densities than in landscapes with low road densities. We sampled P. leucopus in focal patches within nineteen landscapes (7 rural, low-road-density landscapes; 7 rural, high-road-density landscapes; 5 urban landscapes). There was no significant relationship between road density and the presence/absence of P. leucopus during the early spring. We found a significant positive effect of road density on P. leucopus relative abundance during the summer, even when we excluded the urban landscapes and based the analysis on only the 14 rural landscapes. Our results suggest that any negative effect of roads on P. leucopus populations, created by their inhibition to moving across roads, is far outweighed by some positive effect of roads on P. leucopus abundance. We suggest that the two most likely explanations are that roads are positively correlated with an important as-yet-undetermined component of habitat quality, or that roads positively affect P. leucopus by negatively affecting their predators.