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Anthropogenic water sources and the effects on Sonoran Desert small mammal communities

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Anthropogenic water sources (AWS) are developed water sources used as a management tool for desert wildlife species. Studies documenting the effects of AWS are often focused on game species; whereas,

Anthropogenic water sources (AWS) are developed water sources used as a management tool for desert wildlife species. Studies documenting the effects of AWS are often focused on game species; whereas, the effects on non-target wildlife are less understood. We used live trapping techniques to investigate rodent abundance, biomass, and diversity metrics near AWS and paired control sites; we sampled vegetation to determine rodent-habitat associations in the Sauceda Mountains of the Sonoran Desert in Arizona. A total of 370 individual mammals representing three genera and eight species were captured in 4,800 trap nights from winter 2011 to spring 2012. A multi-response permutation procedure was used to identify differences in small mammal community abundance and biomass by season and treatment. Rodent abundance, biomass, and richness were greater at AWS compared to control sites. Patterns of abundance and biomass were driven by the desert pocket mouse (Chaetodipus penicillatus) which was the most common capture and two times more numerous at AWS compared to controls. Vegetation characteristics, explored using principal components analysis, were similar between AWS and controls. Two species that prefer vegetation structure, Bailey’s pocket mouse (C. baileyi) and white-throated woodrat (Neotoma albigula), had greater abundances and biomass near AWS and were associated with habitat having high cactus density. Although small mammals do not drink free-water, perhaps higher abundances of some species of desert rodents at AWS could be related to artificial structure associated with construction or other resources. Compared to the 30-year average of precipitation for the area, the period of our study occurred during a dry winter. During dry periods, perhaps AWS provide resources to rodents related to moisture.

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  • 2017-11-10

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The effects of artificial water sources on small mammal communities

Description

Modified and artificial water sources can be used as a management tool for game and non-game wildlife species. State, federal, and private agencies allocate significant resources to install and maintain

Modified and artificial water sources can be used as a management tool for game and non-game wildlife species. State, federal, and private agencies allocate significant resources to install and maintain artificial water sources (AWS) annually. Capture mark recapture methods were used to sample small mammal communities in the vicinity of five AWS and five paired control sites (treatments) in the surrounding Sonoran desert from October 2011 to May 2012. I measured plant species richness, density, and percent cover in the spring of 2012. A Multi-response Permutation Procedure was used to identify differences in small mammal community abundance, biomass, and species richness by season and treatment. I used Principle Component Analysis to reduce 11 habitat characteristics to five habitat factors. I related rodent occurrence to habitat characteristics using multiple and logistic regression. A total of 370 individual mammals representing three genera and eight species of rodents were captured across 4800 trap nights. Desert pocket mouse (Chaetodipus penicillatus) was the most common species in both seasons and treatments. Whereas rodent community abundance, biomass, and richness were similar between seasons, community variables of AWS were greater than CS. Rodent diversity was similar between treatments. Desert pocket mouse abundance and biomass were twice as high at AWS when compared to controls. Biomass of white-throated woodrat (Neotoma albigula) was five times greater at AWS. Habitat characteristics were similar between treatments. Neither presence of water nor distance to water explained substantial habitat variation. Occurrence of rodent species was associated with habitat characteristics. Desert rodent communities are adapted for arid environments (i.e. Heteromyids) and are not dependent on "free water". Higher abundances of desert pocket mouse at AWS were most likely related to increased disturbance and debris and not the presence of water. The results of this study and previous studies suggest that more investigation is needed and that short term studies may not be able to detect interactions (if any) between AWS and desert small mammal communities.

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Date Created
  • 2013