Changes of small mammal communities in landscapes of Central Europe

bank vole (Myodes glareolus) © Wikimedia Commons

Long-term dynamics of small mammal communities are perennial themes in population ecology. However, comprehensive studies on the effect of environmental factors on population dynamics are still rare.

Jan Riegert and František Sedláček from the Department of Zoology, Faculty of Science, co-authored a paper that analyzed long-term data on Central European communities of small mammals occurring in two habitats that greatly differed in their structure, successional stages, and forest management. The authors found a richer community structure in young spruce plantations compared to mature European beech forests.

In young spruce plantations, the bank vole (Myodes glareolus) and the yellow-necked mouse (Apodemus flavicollis) abundances increased and the common shrew (Sorex araneus) abundances decreased during the study period as a result of forest growth and management. Community structure in mature beech forests did not change significantly during the study period. Yellow-necked mouse and bank vole showed 3- and 5-year population cycles, respectively, and their abundances were simultaneously positively correlated with relative abundance of masts. Weather also played a role, while the effect of snow cover was pronounced only in mountain areas where it negatively affected the field vole (Microtus agrestis) and common shrew abundances, temperature positively and rainfall negatively influenced bank vole and yellow-necked mouse abundances across both studied habitats.

These findings show that a complex of environmental factors significantly affects the structure and dynamics of small mammal communities in Central Europe, and that both local biotic and abiotic factors play a role in this dynamics.

Zárybnická, M., Riegert, J., Bejček, V., Sedláček, F., Šťastný, K., Šindelář, J., … & Zima, J. (2017). Long-term changes of small mammal communities in heterogenous landscapes of Central EuropeEuropean Journal of Wildlife Research63(6), 89.