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Road-related landscape elements as a habitat: A main asset for small mammals in an intensive farming landscape

Jumeau, Jonathan, Boucharel, Pauline, Handrich, Yves, Burel, Françoise
Basic and applied ecology 2017 v.25 pp. 15-27
Apodemus sylvaticus, Microtus arvalis, habitats, intensive farming, islands, landscapes, road construction, roads, rodents, small mammals
Road construction creates new habitats for a variety of species. In intensive farming landscapes, road verges may be the only suitable habitat for rodents. However, little attention has been paid to other road-related landscape elements (RRLEs), such as excavation slopes or the central islands of roundabouts, and their importance in a rodent territory. This study investigated all types of RRLE in terms of rodent abundances and habitat quality. RRLEs were compared with the semi-natural elements of the studied landscape using a capture-mark-recapture protocol. Four species and 3154 individuals were captured over a period of four months. Relative abundance and habitat quality were higher in RRLEs than in semi-natural elements. Mapping of the landscape showed that 86% of crop fields are accessible to Microtus arvalis (and almost 100% for Apodemus sylvaticus) from road verges. Our results highlight the importance of road verges and all other RRLEs in the conservation of species diversity in intensive farming landscapes.