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Annual changes in structural complexity of understory vegetation and relative abundance ofPeromyscus leucopus in fragmented habitats

Abstract

Greater structural complexity of understory vegetation may be one factor that contributes to the negative relation ship between density of generalist rodents (eg,Peromyscus leucopus Rafinesque, 1818) and forest patch area; however, this hypothesis is difficult to test. We removed the problem of multicollinearity among variables by analyzing changes in structural complexity and relative abundance ofP. leucopus in 15 forest patches (1.3–200 ha) over a 3-yr period. We found that an in crease in the relative abundance ofP. leucopus was associated with an increase in structural complexity of understory vegetation in the same patches between years. Structural complexity of the understory was greater in smaller forest patches which we speculate may be influenced by moisture. It is possible that understory vegetation provides greater food availability and/or cover from some predators in small patches, but the specific mechanism(s) remains unclear. Multiple factors can potentially influence populations ofP. leucopus, but our results provide strong evidence that structural complexity of understory vegetation positively in fluences relative abundance ofP. leucopus in fragmented habitats.

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Associate Editor was Joseph F. Merritt.

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Anderson, C.S., Meikle, D.B. Annual changes in structural complexity of understory vegetation and relative abundance ofPeromyscus leucopus in fragmented habitats. Acta Theriol 51, 43–51 (2006). https://doi.org/10.1007/BF03192654

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Key words

  • density
  • fragmen tation
  • forest patch size
  • vegetation structure
  • white-footed mouse