Evol Ecol Res 12: 203-216 (2010)     Full PDF if your library subscribes.

Deer mice mediate red-backed vole behaviour and abundance along a gradient of habitat alteration

Jérôme Lemaître1, Daniel Fortin1, Douglas W. Morris2 and Marcel Darveau3

1Department of Biology, University of Laval, Quebec, Quebec, 2Department of Biology, Lakehead University, Thunder Bay, Ontario and 3Ducks Unlimited Canada, Quebec, Quebec, Canada

Correspondence: J. Lemaître, Department of Biology, University of Laval, Quebec, Quebec G1V 0A6, Canada.
e-mail: jerome.lemaitre.1@ulaval.ca


Hypotheses: (1) Intra- and inter-specific competition should increase with anthropogenic disturbances that reduce habitat quality. (2) In forested ecosystems, predation risk for small consumers should increase with the intensity of disturbance. (3) For the same level of disturbance, foragers living in higher-quality habitats should protect their assets by investing more in anti-predatory behaviours than those living in low-quality habitats.

Organisms: Red-backed voles (Myodes gapperi) living in sympatry with deer mice (Peromyscus maniculatus).

Place and time: Twenty-nine pairs of natural and logged habitats sampled during 2006 in managed boreal forest, Province of Québec, Canada.

Methods: We identified a gradient of habitat disturbance along principal components summarizing 12 habitat variables. We estimated competition by measuring the giving-up density of rodents along the gradient of habitat disturbance. We assessed predation risk by measuring the giving-up density of rodents foraging in safe and risky patches. We tested for differences with multi-level statistical modelling.

Conclusions: Competition and predation risk increased with habitat disturbance in the boreal forest studied. Foragers living in higher-quality habitats experienced higher predation costs than foragers living in low-quality habitats. Intra- and inter-specific competition, rather than predation, was the main mechanism responsible for the decline of red-backed vole populations associated with forest harvesting.

Keywords: adaptive foraging behaviour, asset-protection principle, behavioural indicator, competition, giving-up density, habitat alteration, habitat selection, Myodes gapperi, Peromyscus maniculatus, predation risk, quitting-harvest rate.

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