Highway verges as habitat providers for small mammals in agrosilvopastoral environments

TitleHighway verges as habitat providers for small mammals in agrosilvopastoral environments
Publication TypeJournal Article
Year of Publication2012
AuthorsAscensão, F., Clevenger A. P., Grilo C., Filipe J., & Santos-Reis M.
JournalBiodiversity and Conservation
Pagination3681 - 3697
Date Published2012///
KeywordsApodemus sylvaticus, Capture–mark–recapture, Crocidura russula, Iberia Peninsula, Mediterranean, Montado woodlands, Mus spretus, Road ecology

The Mediterranean Basin has an important conservation value given its high biodiversity and high number of endemic species, which have co-existed with human traditional practices for centuries. However, northern areas as the Iberian Peninsula have experienced intensification in livestock production in recent past, with consequent reduction in habitat quality. In this study we assessed the importance of fenced highway verges as habitat for small mammals in Mediterranean agrosilvopastoral landscapes. More specifically, we compared small mammal abundance between highway verges and the adjacent two main land uses (‘‘montado’’ and open areas); compared the vegetative structure among these land were captured: 157 wood mice (Apodemus sylvaticus), 95 western Mediterranean mice (Mus spretus) and 99 greater white-toothed shrews (Crocidura russula). Capture–mark– recapture analyses were performed to estimate population size. Our data suggests that fenced highway verges promote better vegetative structure conditions which in turn favor a higher animal abundance therein. We suggest the adoption of management practices to increase the height and cover of herbaceous and shrub layers in road verges, together with creating grazing controlled areas in highway vicinity, particularly in ‘‘montado’’ patches, linked by vegetated linear features. This would increase habitat and refuge for a large numbers of species, including small mammals, and thus benefiting the trophic chain and the whole agrosilvopastoral system. uses; and addressed how vegetation structure influences species occupancy. Thirty-six sites were sampled in agrosilvopastoral system areas in southern Portugal (sampling effort 8,840 trap-nights). A total of 351 individuals from target species