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Effects of connectivity and regional dynamics on restoration trajectories for small mammal communities on Midwestern grasslands

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Title: Effects of connectivity and regional dynamics on restoration trajectories for small mammal communities on Midwestern grasslands
Author(s): Mulligan, Matthew
Advisor(s): Schooley, Robert L.
Department / Program: Natural Res & Env Sci
Discipline: Natural Res & Env Sciences
Degree Granting Institution: University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign
Degree: M.S.
Genre: Thesis
Subject(s): grassland restoration linear habitats population dynamics restoration trajectories small mammals voles
Abstract: Grasslands are among the most imperiled of the North American ecosystems, with ≤ 1% of tallgrass prairie remaining. The State Acres for Wildlife Enhancement (SAFE) is a national conservation program that converts agricultural fields into grasslands with the primary focus on improving habitat for high priority wildlife species. Because small mammals can be important indicators of ecosystem function, I sampled small mammal communities to evaluate restoration efforts under the SAFE program in Illinois. I livetrapped small mammals during 3 summers (2009-2011) on plots that were recently seeded, seeded 1-4 years prior to sampling, or established references (>10 yrs old). Overall, the dominant species were the deer mouse (Peromyscus maniculatus), prairie vole (Microtus ochrogaster), and meadow vole (Microtus pennsylvanicus); which combined represented 92-97% of total captures each year. Typical restoration trajectories for small mammal communities included a shift over time from dominance by generalist Peromyscus to communities that included substantial numbers of Microtus. During the first year of community assembly following restoration, the abundance of Microtus depended on spatial connectivity provided by linear habitats (roadside ditches and grass waterways) within 300 m, which probably served as temporary habitats and movement corridors. Patch size and seeding type (cool-season versus warm-season grasses) were not predictors of initial restoration trajectories. In 2011, populations of Microtus experienced a severe regional decline that might have reflected multi-year population cycles. During the crash, most remaining voles occurred on restored SAFE grasslands but not on established grasslands. This surprising outcome suggests young restoration plots could function as refuges for voles during population declines in agricultural landscapes in the Midwest region. Overall, my study highlights the need for adopting landscape mosaic approaches in ecological restoration.
Issue Date: 2012-09-18
URI: http://hdl.handle.net/2142/34408
Rights Information: Copyright 2012 Matthew Mulligan
Date Available in IDEALS: 2012-09-18
Date Deposited: 2012-08
 

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