“Living on the edge”: the role of field margins for common vole (Microtus arvalis) populations in recently colonised Mediterranean farmland

Ruth Rodríguez-Pastor, Juan Jose Luque-Larena, Xavier Lambin, Francois Mougeot

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

16 Citations (Scopus)
6 Downloads (Pure)

Abstract

Small rodents are common inhabitants of farmlands where they play key ecosystem roles but can also be major pests when overabundant, causing crop damages and significant economic losses. Agricultural landscapes are characterised by high fragmentation with remnant semi-natural habitats being typically restricted to narrow field margins. These linear habitats are key to maintaining local biodiversity, but can also harbour “irruptive pest” species, such as voles. The common vole Microtus arvalis, is a main vertebrate pest in continental European farmlands, and recently invaded the inland Mediterranean agricultural landscapes of NW Spain, where regular crop-damaging outbreaks now occur. Knowing how reliant common voles are on field margins in Mediterranean agricultural landscapes would be an important step forward for more targeted management. Here we report on common vole habitat use in Mediterranean European farmland and compare them with those found in northern latitudes, thus seeking for both general patterns as well as geographical differences. We conducted seasonal trappings over 6-years in the main habitats (cereal and alfalfa crops, fallows, and their margins). We show a strong edge effect, in the form of an exponential decay in vole abundance from the margin towards the inside of fields, and vole abundances 2.3 times higher in margins that inside fields. The magnitude of this edge effect varied depending on crop type, season and vole abundance (density-dependence). Cereal crops were characterised by a stronger edge effect than alfalfas or fallows (with abundance 8–10 times higher in margins than in fields during spring and autumn). Cereals appeared as the least optimal habitat for common voles, with important spill-over of voles inside the fields in summer when densities increased. Field margins, where vegetation characteristics hardly change seasonally, provide a limited (5% of the agricultural surface) but stable habitat and key refuge for common voles in Mediterranean farmlands. Our results suggest that targeting management actions in the field margins of cereal crops during spring and autumn and inside alfalfa fields during population increases should be considered in integrated control schemes of crop-damaging common vole outbreaks.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)206-217
Number of pages12
JournalAgriculture Ecosystems & Environment
Volume231
Early online date15 Jul 2016
DOIs
Publication statusPublished - 1 Sep 2016

Fingerprint

Microtus arvalis
field margin
edge effects
agricultural land
cereal
crop
edge effect
alfalfa
habitat
habitats
fallow
crops
grain crops
autumn
crop damage
pest species
pests
vertebrate pests
density dependence
habitat use

Keywords

  • semi-natural habitats
  • cereal
  • alfafa
  • density-dependence
  • outbreak management

Cite this

“Living on the edge” : the role of field margins for common vole (Microtus arvalis) populations in recently colonised Mediterranean farmland. / Rodríguez-Pastor, Ruth; Luque-Larena, Juan Jose; Lambin, Xavier; Mougeot, Francois.

In: Agriculture Ecosystems & Environment, Vol. 231, 01.09.2016, p. 206-217.

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

@article{11a66cea852642bea35481181686051e,
title = "“Living on the edge”: the role of field margins for common vole (Microtus arvalis) populations in recently colonised Mediterranean farmland",
abstract = "Small rodents are common inhabitants of farmlands where they play key ecosystem roles but can also be major pests when overabundant, causing crop damages and significant economic losses. Agricultural landscapes are characterised by high fragmentation with remnant semi-natural habitats being typically restricted to narrow field margins. These linear habitats are key to maintaining local biodiversity, but can also harbour “irruptive pest” species, such as voles. The common vole Microtus arvalis, is a main vertebrate pest in continental European farmlands, and recently invaded the inland Mediterranean agricultural landscapes of NW Spain, where regular crop-damaging outbreaks now occur. Knowing how reliant common voles are on field margins in Mediterranean agricultural landscapes would be an important step forward for more targeted management. Here we report on common vole habitat use in Mediterranean European farmland and compare them with those found in northern latitudes, thus seeking for both general patterns as well as geographical differences. We conducted seasonal trappings over 6-years in the main habitats (cereal and alfalfa crops, fallows, and their margins). We show a strong edge effect, in the form of an exponential decay in vole abundance from the margin towards the inside of fields, and vole abundances 2.3 times higher in margins that inside fields. The magnitude of this edge effect varied depending on crop type, season and vole abundance (density-dependence). Cereal crops were characterised by a stronger edge effect than alfalfas or fallows (with abundance 8–10 times higher in margins than in fields during spring and autumn). Cereals appeared as the least optimal habitat for common voles, with important spill-over of voles inside the fields in summer when densities increased. Field margins, where vegetation characteristics hardly change seasonally, provide a limited (5{\%} of the agricultural surface) but stable habitat and key refuge for common voles in Mediterranean farmlands. Our results suggest that targeting management actions in the field margins of cereal crops during spring and autumn and inside alfalfa fields during population increases should be considered in integrated control schemes of crop-damaging common vole outbreaks.",
keywords = "semi-natural habitats, cereal, alfafa, density-dependence, outbreak management",
author = "Ruth Rodr{\'i}guez-Pastor and Luque-Larena, {Juan Jose} and Xavier Lambin and Francois Mougeot",
note = "Acknowledgments RRP was supported by a PhD-studentship from the University of Valladolid (co-funded by Banco Santander, RR 30/04/2014). Financial support was provided by ECOCYCLES (BIODIVERSA 2008, Era-net European project, EUI2008-03658 and NERC NE/G002045/1 to XL) and ECOVOLE projects (CGL2012-35348; Ministerio de Econom{\'i}a y Competitividad of Spain). The article also contributes to project ECOTULA (CGL2015-66962-C2-1-R). We held all the necessary licenses and permits for conducting this work (JJLL, FM and RRP held animal experimentation permits of level B for Spain, and a capture permit was provided by the Consejer{\'i}a de Fomento y Medio Ambiente, Junta de Castilla y Le{\'o}n (Expte: EP/CYL/665/2014)). We thank two anonymous reviewers for providing and constructive comments to improve the manuscript.",
year = "2016",
month = "9",
day = "1",
doi = "10.1016/j.agee.2016.06.041",
language = "English",
volume = "231",
pages = "206--217",
journal = "Agriculture Ecosystems & Environment",
issn = "0167-8809",
publisher = "Elsevier",

}

TY - JOUR

T1 - “Living on the edge”

T2 - the role of field margins for common vole (Microtus arvalis) populations in recently colonised Mediterranean farmland

AU - Rodríguez-Pastor, Ruth

AU - Luque-Larena, Juan Jose

AU - Lambin, Xavier

AU - Mougeot, Francois

N1 - Acknowledgments RRP was supported by a PhD-studentship from the University of Valladolid (co-funded by Banco Santander, RR 30/04/2014). Financial support was provided by ECOCYCLES (BIODIVERSA 2008, Era-net European project, EUI2008-03658 and NERC NE/G002045/1 to XL) and ECOVOLE projects (CGL2012-35348; Ministerio de Economía y Competitividad of Spain). The article also contributes to project ECOTULA (CGL2015-66962-C2-1-R). We held all the necessary licenses and permits for conducting this work (JJLL, FM and RRP held animal experimentation permits of level B for Spain, and a capture permit was provided by the Consejería de Fomento y Medio Ambiente, Junta de Castilla y León (Expte: EP/CYL/665/2014)). We thank two anonymous reviewers for providing and constructive comments to improve the manuscript.

PY - 2016/9/1

Y1 - 2016/9/1

N2 - Small rodents are common inhabitants of farmlands where they play key ecosystem roles but can also be major pests when overabundant, causing crop damages and significant economic losses. Agricultural landscapes are characterised by high fragmentation with remnant semi-natural habitats being typically restricted to narrow field margins. These linear habitats are key to maintaining local biodiversity, but can also harbour “irruptive pest” species, such as voles. The common vole Microtus arvalis, is a main vertebrate pest in continental European farmlands, and recently invaded the inland Mediterranean agricultural landscapes of NW Spain, where regular crop-damaging outbreaks now occur. Knowing how reliant common voles are on field margins in Mediterranean agricultural landscapes would be an important step forward for more targeted management. Here we report on common vole habitat use in Mediterranean European farmland and compare them with those found in northern latitudes, thus seeking for both general patterns as well as geographical differences. We conducted seasonal trappings over 6-years in the main habitats (cereal and alfalfa crops, fallows, and their margins). We show a strong edge effect, in the form of an exponential decay in vole abundance from the margin towards the inside of fields, and vole abundances 2.3 times higher in margins that inside fields. The magnitude of this edge effect varied depending on crop type, season and vole abundance (density-dependence). Cereal crops were characterised by a stronger edge effect than alfalfas or fallows (with abundance 8–10 times higher in margins than in fields during spring and autumn). Cereals appeared as the least optimal habitat for common voles, with important spill-over of voles inside the fields in summer when densities increased. Field margins, where vegetation characteristics hardly change seasonally, provide a limited (5% of the agricultural surface) but stable habitat and key refuge for common voles in Mediterranean farmlands. Our results suggest that targeting management actions in the field margins of cereal crops during spring and autumn and inside alfalfa fields during population increases should be considered in integrated control schemes of crop-damaging common vole outbreaks.

AB - Small rodents are common inhabitants of farmlands where they play key ecosystem roles but can also be major pests when overabundant, causing crop damages and significant economic losses. Agricultural landscapes are characterised by high fragmentation with remnant semi-natural habitats being typically restricted to narrow field margins. These linear habitats are key to maintaining local biodiversity, but can also harbour “irruptive pest” species, such as voles. The common vole Microtus arvalis, is a main vertebrate pest in continental European farmlands, and recently invaded the inland Mediterranean agricultural landscapes of NW Spain, where regular crop-damaging outbreaks now occur. Knowing how reliant common voles are on field margins in Mediterranean agricultural landscapes would be an important step forward for more targeted management. Here we report on common vole habitat use in Mediterranean European farmland and compare them with those found in northern latitudes, thus seeking for both general patterns as well as geographical differences. We conducted seasonal trappings over 6-years in the main habitats (cereal and alfalfa crops, fallows, and their margins). We show a strong edge effect, in the form of an exponential decay in vole abundance from the margin towards the inside of fields, and vole abundances 2.3 times higher in margins that inside fields. The magnitude of this edge effect varied depending on crop type, season and vole abundance (density-dependence). Cereal crops were characterised by a stronger edge effect than alfalfas or fallows (with abundance 8–10 times higher in margins than in fields during spring and autumn). Cereals appeared as the least optimal habitat for common voles, with important spill-over of voles inside the fields in summer when densities increased. Field margins, where vegetation characteristics hardly change seasonally, provide a limited (5% of the agricultural surface) but stable habitat and key refuge for common voles in Mediterranean farmlands. Our results suggest that targeting management actions in the field margins of cereal crops during spring and autumn and inside alfalfa fields during population increases should be considered in integrated control schemes of crop-damaging common vole outbreaks.

KW - semi-natural habitats

KW - cereal

KW - alfafa

KW - density-dependence

KW - outbreak management

U2 - 10.1016/j.agee.2016.06.041

DO - 10.1016/j.agee.2016.06.041

M3 - Article

VL - 231

SP - 206

EP - 217

JO - Agriculture Ecosystems & Environment

JF - Agriculture Ecosystems & Environment

SN - 0167-8809

ER -