Cattle grazing, raptor abundance and small mammal communities in Mediterranean grasslands

Ignacio Torre, Mario Díaz, Jesus Martinez-Padilla, Raúl Bonal, Javier Viñuela, Juan A. Fargallo

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Abstract

Abundance and diversity of small mammals are usually affected strongly by grazing either due to decreased food availability or quality, decreased suitability of soil for building burrow systems due to trampling and/or due to increased predation risk in the structurally simpler grazed areas. We estimated the effects of grazing-induced changes in vegetation and soil and of increased predation on small mammals in a Mediterranean grassland landscape. We measured vegetation structure, soil compaction and small mammal abundance and species composition in 22 plots of 8 Sherman live traps each, arranged according to an unbalanced two-way ANOVA design with two grazing levels (grazed areas and cattle exclosures) and two predator abundance levels (increased densities of Eurasian kestrets Falco tinnunculus by means of nest boxes and control). Plots were sampled during 2 consecutive years in early summer and earty fall. Exclosure from cattle increased significantly vegetation height and volume and decreased soil compaction. Grazing-induced changes in vegetation height and volume and in soil compaction produced strong effects on small mammal abundance and species richness. Increased kestrel. densities did not have significant additive or interactive effects, with the effects of grazing-induced vegetation and soil gradients on abundance or richness of small mammals. Our results suggest that the effects of grazing on small mammal communities in Mediterranean montane grasslands were mainly due to reduced food availability and by negative effects of trampling on the suitability of soils for building burrow systems. Decreased food quality and increased predation in grazed areas seemed to play a minor rote, if any. Reductions in stock densities would then favor generalist predator populations in Mediterranean grasslands through the expected positive effects of such reductions on the availability of food and burrows for small mammals.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)565-575
Number of pages11
JournalBasic and Applied Ecology
Volume8
Issue number6
Early online date29 Jan 2007
DOIs
Publication statusPublished - Nov 2007

Keywords

  • cattle exclosure
  • Eurasian kestrel abundance
  • small mammal abundance
  • soil compaction
  • species richness
  • vegetation structure
  • apodemus-sylvaticus
  • species composition
  • seed predation
  • wood mice
  • population
  • dynamics
  • rodents
  • herbivores
  • vegetation
  • ecosystem
  • Cattle exclosure
  • Small mammal abundance
  • Soil compaction
  • Species richness
  • Vegetation structure

Cite this

Torre, I., Díaz, M., Martinez-Padilla, J., Bonal, R., Viñuela, J., & Fargallo, J. A. (2007). Cattle grazing, raptor abundance and small mammal communities in Mediterranean grasslands. Basic and Applied Ecology, 8(6), 565-575. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.baae.2006.09.016