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The trophic impact of small mammals in successional grasslands
- CHURCHFIELD, SARA, BROWN, VALERIE K.
- Biological journal of the Linnean Society 1987 v.31 no.3 pp. 273-290
- Apodemus sylvaticus, Microtus agrestis, Sorex araneus, diet, dominant species, food availability, grasslands, habitat preferences, habitats, insects, invertebrates, mice, shrews, small mammals, spring
- The habitat use and diets of small mammals inhabiting grassland plots of different successional ages were investigated by live-trapping and faecal analysis over a period of 16 months. The contribution of the major plant life forms and the structural profile of the vegetation of each plot and the availability of insect prey were assessed. The dominant species of small mammal found on each plot were Sorex araneus, S. minutus, Apodemus sylvaticus and Microtus agrestis. Small mammals were most commonly found in the late and mid-successional stages, reflecting the habitat structure and food availability. A wide range of insects and other invertebrates were eaten by all four species and insects formed 50–62% of the animal prey taken. The incidence of certain prey in the diets differed between plots. The daily consumption rate of invertebrates by shrews and mice was estimated at some 6800 prey per ha. The greatest predatory impact came from shews but A. sylvaticus showed increased consumption of invertebrates in spring. The combined predatory impact of the grassland small mammal community on insect populations alone was estimated to average 0.01% per day and is predicted to be greatest in the mid-successional stages.