Animals in urban areas can be exposed to human-mediated land use change and radiant heat (called urban heat island effect). Few studies have empirically evaluated the effects of urban heat on wild vertebrates. We live-trapped desert wild rodents from a large metropolitan area in the Sonoran Desert, USA, across seven field sites spanning three strata of land surface temperatures. During the summers of 2019 and 2020, we captured 116 adult pocket mice (Chaetodipus spp. and Perognathus spp.) and Merriam’s kangaroo rats (Dipodomys merriami) in mountainous urban parks and open spaces. We measured body condition, proxy for health, using percent body fat (i.e., fat mass divided by body mass). For mammals, this parameter estimates the storage of energy-rich fat, which is important for growth, survival, and reproduction. We measured body condition using a noninvasive quantitative magnetic resonance instrument. Site-level surface temperatures were measured using data loggers and long-term climate data. Results supported the prediction that body condition was greatest in cooler temperature strata compared to the hottest areas. To relate body condition to resource availability, we evaluated vegetation cover and degree of urbanization. Body fat of adult pocket mice was greater in areas with more vegetation cover and where nighttime temperatures and surface temperatures were lower and urbanization was greater. Kangaroo rats had more fat in areas with the lowest strata of surface temperature. These results demonstrate that extreme heat negatively covaries with small mammal body condition, which indicates that urbanization and climate change have the potential to reduce rodent fitness.
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Data from rodent body condition available through the Central Arizona-Phoenix Long-Term Ecological Research Program (CAP LTER). Citation: Bateman, H., B. Allen, M. Moore, and D. Hondula. 2022. Urban Heat and Desert Wildlife: Rodent Body Condition Across a Gradient of Surface Temperatures in the greater Phoenix, Arizona (USA) metropolitan area (2019–2020) ver 2. Environmental Data Initiative. https://doi.org/10.6073/pasta/24107bfde25b116686e01dd30227cfd2.
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We thank F. Albuquerque and J. Lewis for their contribution of environmental data. We thank J. Brown and M. Wright for assistance with R code. Field assistance was from A. Bergstedt, G.Q.T. Allen, N. Holt, and T. Allen Nabors. We thank the following for site access: Phoenix-Mesa Gateway Airport, McDowell Sonoran Conservancy, Flood Control District at Cave Buttes Recreation Area, and Town of Queen Creek. Methods and animal use permits granted from ASU Institutional Animal Care and Use Committee (Protocol #19-1719R, Appendix A) and Arizona Game and Fish Department Scientific Collection Permit (Bateman, LIC #SP648546). Part of this work was supported by the National Science Foundation under grant number DEB-1832016 through the Central Arizona-Phoenix Long-Term Ecological Research Program (CAP LTER).
Partial financial support was received from National Science Foundation under grant number DEB-1832016 through the Central Arizona-Phoenix Long-Term Ecological Research Program (CAP LTER).
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The authors have no conflicts to declare.
Method protocol involving animal use was granted from Arizona State University Institutional Animal Care and Use Committee (Protocol #19-1719R to Marianne Moore) and Arizona Game and Fish Department Scientific Collection Permit (LIC #SP648546 to Heather Bateman).
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Bateman, H.L., Allen, B.D., Moore, M.S. et al. Urban heat and desert wildlife: rodent body condition across a gradient of surface temperatures. Urban Ecosyst 26, 917–928 (2023). https://doi.org/10.1007/s11252-023-01358-4