Springer Nature is making SARS-CoV-2 and COVID-19 research free. View research | View latest news | Sign up for updates

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


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.

This is a preview of subscription content, log in to check access.


  1. Anderson C. S. 2004. Effects of forest fragmentation on the abundance, distribution, and population genetic structure of white-footed mice (Peromyscus leucopus). PhD thesis, Miami University, Oxford, OH: 1–144.

  2. Anderson C. S., Cady A. B. and Meikle D. B. 2003. Effects of vegetation structure and edge habitat on the density and distribution of white-footed mice (Peromyscus leucopus) in small and large forest patches. Canadian Journal of Zoology 81: 897–904.

  3. Andren H. 1994. Effects of habitat fragmentation on birds and mammals in landscapes with different proportions of suitable habitat: a review. Oikos 71: 355–366.

  4. Bowers M. A. and Dooley J. L. 1993. Predation hazard and seed removal by small mammals: microhabitat versus patch scale effects. Oecologia 94: 247–254.

  5. Bowers M. A. and Matter S. F. 1997. Landscape ecology of mammals: relation ships between density and patch size. Journal of Mammalogy 78: 999–1013.

  6. Burke D.M. and Nol E. 1998. Edge and fragment size effects on the vegetation of deciduous forests in On tario, Canada. Natural Areas Journal 18: 45–53.

  7. Connor E. F., Courtney A. C. and Yoder J. M. 2000. Individu als-are arelationship: the relationship between animal population density and area. Ecology 81: 734–748.

  8. Cummings J. R. and Vessey S. H. 1994. Agricultural influences on movement patterns of white-footed mice (Peromyscus leucopus). The American Midland Naturalist 132: 209–218.

  9. Diaz M., Santos T. and Telleria J. L. 1999. Effects of forest fragmentation on the winter body condition and population parameters of a habitat generalist, the wood mouseApodemus sylvaticus: a test of hypotheses. Acta Oecologica 20: 39–49.

  10. Doonan T. J. and Slade N. A. 1995. Effects of supplemental food on population dynamics of cotton rats,Sigmodon hispidus. Ecology 76: 814–826.

  11. Drickamer L. C. 1990. Microhabitat preferences of two species of deermice (Peromyscus) in a northeastern United States deciduous hardwood forest. Acta Theriologica 35: 241–252.

  12. Fahrig L. 1997. Relative effects of habitat loss and fragmentation on population extinction. The Journal of Wildlife Management 61: 603–610.

  13. Goundie T. R. and Vessey S. H. 1986. Survival and dispersal of young white-footed mice born in nest boxes. Journal of Mammalogy 67: 53–60.

  14. Graham M. H. 2003. Confronting multicollinearity in ecological multiple regression Ecology 84: 2809–2815.

  15. Hamilton W. J. Jr 1941. The food of small forest mammals in eastern United States. Journal of Mammalogy 23: 250–263.

  16. Hutchinson T. F., Boerner R. E. J., Iverson L. R., Sutherland S. and Sutherland E. K. 1999. Landscape patterns of understory composition and richness across a moisture and nitrogen mineralization gradient in Ohio (U.S.A.)Quercus forests. Plant Ecology 144: 177–189.

  17. Kaufman D. W., Peak M. E. and Kaufman G. A. 1985.Peromyscus leucopus in riparian woodlands: use of trees and shrubs. Journal of Mammalogy 66: 139–143.

  18. Kesner M. H. and Linzey A. V. 1997. Modeling population variation inPeromyscus leucopus: An exploratory analysis. Journal of Mammalogy 78: 643–654.

  19. Krohne D. T. and Hoch G. A. 1999. Demography ofPeromyscus leucopus populations on habitat patches: the role of dispersal. Canadian Journal of Zoology 77: 1247–1253.

  20. Lima S. L. and Dill L. M. 1990. Behavioral decisions made under risk of predation: a review and prospectus. Canadian Journal of Zoology 68: 619–640.

  21. MacArthur R. H., Diamond J. M. and Karr J. R. 1972. Density compensation in is land faunas. Ecology 53: 330–342.

  22. Manson R. H., Ostfeld R. S. and Canham C. D. 1999. Responses of a small mammal community to heterogeneity along forest-old-field edges. Landscape Ecology 14: 355–367.

  23. Matlack C. and Evans A. 1992. Diet and condition of bobcats,Lynx rufus, in Nova Scotia during autumn and winter. Canadian Journal of Zoology 70: 1114–1119.

  24. M’Closkey R. T. 1975. Habitat dimension of white-footed mice,Peromyscus leucopus. The American Midland Naturalist 93: 158–167.

  25. M’Closkey R. T. 1976. Use of artificial microhabitats by white-footed mice,Peromyscus leucopus. The American Midland Naturalist 96: 467–470.

  26. Morris D. W. 1979. Microhabitat utilization and species distribution of sympatric small mammals in Southwestern Ontario. The American Midland Naturalist 101: 373–384.

  27. Nupp T. E. and Swihart R. K. 1996. Effect of forest patch area on population attributes of white-footed mice (Peromyscus leucopus) in fragmented landscapes. Canadian Journal of Zoology 74: 467–472.

  28. Nupp T. E. and Swihart R. K. 1998. Effects of forest fragmentation on population attributes of white-footed mice and eastern chipmunks. Journal of Mammalogy 79: 1234–1243.

  29. Otis D. L., Burnham K. P., White G. C. and Anderson D. R. 1978. Statistical inference from capture data on closed populations. Wildlife Monographs 62: 1–135.

  30. Parmenter R. R. and MacMahon J. A. 1983. Factors de termining the abundance and distribution of rodents in a shrub-steppe ecosystem: the role of shrubs. Oecologia 59: 145–156.

  31. SAS. 1999-2000. SAS for Win dows. SAS In stitute, Inc.

  32. Saunders D. A., Hobbs R. J. and Margules C. R. 1991. Biological consequences of ecosystem fragmentation: a review. Conservation Biology 5: 18–32.

  33. Schmid-Holmes S. and Drickamer L. C. 2001. Im pact of forest patch characteristicson small mammal communities: a multivariate ap proach. Biological Conservation 99: 293–305.

  34. Slade N. A. and Blair S. M. 2000. An empirical test of using counts of individuals captured as in dices of population size. Journal of Mammalogy 81: 1035–1045.

  35. Sokal R. R. and Rohlf F. J. 1981. Biometry: the principles and practice of statistics in biological research. W. H. Free man and Co, San Francisco, CA: 1–859.

  36. Sweitzer R. and Berger J. 1993. Seasonal dynamics of mass and body condition in Great Basin porcupines. Journal of Mammalogy 74: 198–203.

  37. Wang G. G. and Klinka K. 1996. Classification of moisture and aeration regimes in sub-bo real forest soils. Environmental Monitoring and Assessment 39: 451–469.

  38. White G.C. and Burnham K.P. 1999. Program MARK: Survival estimation from populations of marked animals. Bird Study 46 Supplement: 120–138.

  39. Wilder S. M. and Meikle D. B. In press. Reproduction, foraging, and the negative density-area relationship of a generalist rodent. Oecologia.

  40. Wolf M. and Batzli G. O. 2002. Effects of forest edge on populations of white-footed mice (Peromyscus leucopus). Ecography 25: 193–199.

  41. Wolf M. and Batzli G. O. 2004. Forest edge — high or low quality habitat for white-footed mice (Peromyscus leucopus)? Ecology 85: 756–769.

  42. Wolff J. O. 1985. Comparative population ecology ofPeromyscus leucopus andPeromyscus maniculatus. Canadian Journal of Zoology 63: 1548–1555.

  43. Wolff J. O. 1992. Parents suppress reproduction and stimulate dispersal in opposite-sex juvenile white-footed mice. Nature 359: 409–410.

  44. Wolff J. O. 1996. population fluctuations of mast-eating rodents are correlated with production of acorns. Journal of Mammalogy 77: 850–856.

  45. Yahner R. H. 1986. Microhabitat use by small mammals in even-aged forest stands. The American Midland Naturalist 115: 174–180.

  46. Yahner R. H. 1992. Dynamics of a small mammal community in a fragmented forest. The American Midland Naturalist 127: 381–391.

Download references

Author information

Additional information

Associate Editor was Joseph F. Merritt.

Rights and permissions

Reprints and Permissions

About this article

Cite this article

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).

Download citation

Key words

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