Landscape predictors of rodent dynamics in fragmented rainforests
Land-use change threatens a large number of tropical species (so-called ‘loser’ species), but a small subset of disturbance-adapted species may proliferate in human-modified landscapes (‘winner’ species). Identifying such loser and winner species is critically needed to improve conservation plans, but this task requires longitudinal studies that are extremely rare. We assessed this topic with small rodent assemblages in the Lacandona rainforest, a relatively new and highly dynamic agricultural frontier from southeastern Mexico. In particular, we measured the abundance of four rodent species in 12 forest sites during a 6 year period. We related changes in abundance to differences across time in landscape structure (i.e., percentage of forest cover, matrix contrast, number of forest patches, and forest edge density) surrounding each site. Total rodent abundance was almost two times higher in 2016 than in 2011, although abundances were generally low in all years. The abundance of Heteromys desmarestianus increased through time, mainly in forest sites with increasing matrix contrast. Oryzomys sp. also tended to increase in abundance, especially in sites with decreasing edge density. Sigmodon toltecus remained stable through time, but Peromyscus mexicanus tended to decrease in abundance, particularly in sites with decreasing edge density and increasing matrix contrast across time. Therefore, spatial variations in landscape structure lead to species-specific responses. If current deforestation rates persist, we predict a population decline of forest-specialist species (P. mexicanus), and an increase in generalist species (S. toltecus and Oryzomys sp.). Improving matrix quality is crucial for preventing the extinction of forest-specialist rodent species.
KeywordsHabitat fragmentation Human-modified landscape Lacandona rainforest Landscape structure Multi-scale approach Winner species
We thank financial support provided by PAPIIT-DGAPA, UNAM (Grant IN-204215), CONACyT (Project 2015-253946), and Rufford Small Grants (No. 22049-1). N.P.A.P. obtained a graduate scholarship from CONACyT. This paper constitutes a partial fulfillment of the PhD program of the Posgrado en Ciencias Biológicas, Universidad Nacional Autónoma de México (UNAM). V.A.-R. thanks PASPA-DGAPA-UNAM for funding his sabbatical stay at the Geomatics and Landscape Ecology Laboratory, Carleton University. The Instituto de Investigaciones en Ecosistemas y Sustentabilidad, UNAM, provided logistical support. We thank Carlos Palomares Magaña (Escuela Nacional de Estudios Superiores Morelia, UNAM) for his technical support in GIS. H. Ferreira, A. Valencia and A. López also provided technical support. Three anonymous reviewers provided valuable insights on the manuscript. Livia León Paniagua (Faculty of Sciences, UNAM) and IDEA WILD provided some Sherman traps. We thank the landowners from the Marqués de Comillas region (Ixcán, Loma Bonita, Chajul, Pirú, Reforma, Galacia, Flor de Marqués), for allowing us to collect data on their properties, as well as the Montes Azules Biosphere Reserve, Natura y Ecosistemas Mexicanos A.C., and the National Commission of Natural Protected Areas (CONANP). A special acknowledgement to Audón Jamangapé and his family, as this study would not have been possible without their assistance in the field.
Compliance with ethical standards
Conflict of interest
The authors declare that they have no other conflict of interest.
This research adhered to national and international guidelines for the treatment of research animals, and was conducted in accordance with the legal requirements of the National Autonomous University of Mexico (UNAM), and the country of Mexico. We assured the welfare of all rodents captured in the study. We were granted access to the study sites by local communities, landowners, and the Montes Azules Biosphere Reserve, part of the National Commission of Natural Protected Areas of Mexico (CONANP).
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