Influence of woody vegetation on small mammals in tallgrass prairie

TitleInfluence of woody vegetation on small mammals in tallgrass prairie
Publication TypeJournal Article
Year of Publication2008
AuthorsMatlack, RS, Kaufman, DW, Kaufman, GA
JournalAmerican Midland Naturalist
Pagination7 -19
Accession NumberKNZ001165

We examined response of small mammals to woody invasion of tallgrass prairie in northeastern Kansas by sampling sites that ranged from 0 to 100% in woody cover (i.e., frequently burned prairie to unburned closed-canopy gallery forest; woody coverage mapped from satellite imagery). Abundance and biomass of small mammals initially increased with increasing woody vegetation, but then decreased to their lowest level at 100% woody cover. Richness was greatest (an average of seven species) where woody cover was ≤17% and decreased to one species where woody cover was 100%. Abundance of white-footed mice (Peromyscus leucopus) increased as woody cover increased from 0 to 62% cover, but decreased in forested sites (100% cover). Abundance of western harvest mice (Reithrodontomys megalotis) decreased as woody cover increased; they were not recorded in forested sites. Deer mice (P. maniculatus) were present in sites with no to low levels of woody vegetation, but were absent in sites with moderate to high levels of woody cover. The 11 species captured were recorded in sites that had little woody vegetation (≤17% cover), whereas only seven species were captured at sites where considerable woody vegetation (≥28% cover) occurred. Even white-footed mice and eastern woodrats, which are considered woodland forms, decreased in abundance or were absent from forested sites. Overall, the results demonstrate that even relatively small amounts of woody vegetation in prairie landscapes can alter abundance, biomass and species richness and composition of small mammal communities.