Long-term changes of small mammal communities in heterogenous landscapes of Central Europe
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Long-term dynamics of small mammal communities are perennial themes in population ecology. However, comprehensive studies on the effect of environmental factors on population dynamics are still rare. Here, we aimed to analyze long-term data on Central European communities of small mammals occurring in two habitats that greatly differed in their structure, successional stages, and forest management. We found a richer community structure in young spruce plantations compared to mature European beech forests. In young spruce plantations, Myodes glareolus and Apodemus flavicollis abundances increased and Sorex araneus abundances decreased during the study period as a result of forest growth and management. Community structure in mature beech forests did not change significantly during the study period. Apodemus flavicollis and Myodes glareolus showed 3- and 5-year population cycles, respectively, and their abundances were simultaneously positively correlated with relative abundance of masts. Weather also played a role, while the effect of snow cover was pronounced only in mountain areas where it negatively affected Microtus agrestis and Sorex araneus abundances, temperature positively and rainfall negatively influenced Myodes glareolus and Apodemus flavicollis abundances across both studied habitats. Our findings document that a complex of environmental factors significantly affects the structure and dynamics of small mammal communities in Central Europe, and both local biotic and abiotic factors should be considered in future studies.
KeywordsHabitat diversity Population dynamics Community structure Small mammal Temperate area Weather Masting
This study is dedicated to Jan Zejda, the distinguished Czech mammalogist. We are grateful to many colleagues for their field assistance, in particular P. Šímová, P. A. Málková, and V. Dvořák. This study was supported by the Czech University of Life Sciences Prague (CIGA No. 20164202, IGA No. 20164215).
Compliance with ethical standards
The research was carried out in accordance with ethical standards following the Act No. 246/1992 Coll. on the protection of animals against cruelty, and it was approved by the Ministry of the Environment of the Czech Republic (71735/ENV/16-3580/630/16).
Conflict of interest
The authors declare that they have no conflicts of interest.
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