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Deer mouse demography in burned and unburned forest: no evidence for source-sink dynamics

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Deer mouse (Peromyscus maniculatus (Wagner, 1845)) populations increase dramatically after wildfires. These increases are puzzling because there are no obvious food sources or vegetation cover in severely burned areas. We conducted a capture-mark-recapture study of deer mice in a mosaic of burned and unburned montane forests in western Montana to determine if their postfire increase could be explained by source-sink dynamics, with burned areas acting as a sink. When overall mouse densities were very low, the vast majority of the population was found in burned areas. Mice appeared regularly in unburned forest only when the densities were high. This pattern is precisely opposite to the expected results if the sink hypothesis were correct. Moreover, mice in burned areas did not show decreased body mass, reproductive performance, or survival when compared with mice in unburned areas. Age structure and sex ratio did not differ between burned and unburned sites. We conclude that burned areas do not function as population sinks; rather, they represent high-quality habitat for deer mice.

Les populations de souris sylvestres (Peromyscus maniculatus (Wagner, 1845)) s’accroissent de façon considérable après un feu de brousse. Ces accroissements sont énigmatiques parce qu’il n’existe pas de source évidente de nourriture, ni de couverture végétale dans les régions ayant subi un feu important. Nous avons mené une étude de capture-marquage-recapture de souris sylvestres dans une mosaïque de forêts de montagne brûlées et intactes dans l’ouest du Montana afin de déterminer si l’accroissement qui suit le feu peut s’expliquer par une dynamique de type source-puits, dans laquelle les surfaces brûlées agissent comme puits. Lorsque les densités globales de souris sont très basses, la vaste majorité de la population se retrouve dans les zones brûlées. Les souris fréquentent régulièrement la forêt intacte seulement lorsque les densités sont fortes. Ce patron représente précisément l’inverse de la réaction attendue si l’hypothèse du puits est correcte. De plus, les souris dans les zones brûlées n’affichent pas de déclin dans leur masse corporelle, ni leur performance reproductrice, ni leur survie par comparaison aux souris des sites intacts. La structure en âges et le rapport mâles :femelles ne diffèrent pas entre les sites brûlés et intacts. Nous concluons que les zones incendiées n’agissent pas comme puits pour la population; au contraire, elles représentent un habitat de grande qualité pour les souris sylvestres.
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Document Type: Research Article

Publication date: 2008-02-02

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  • Published since 1929, this monthly journal reports on primary research contributed by respected international scientists in the broad field of zoology, including behaviour, biochemistry and physiology, developmental biology, ecology, genetics, morphology and ultrastructure, parasitology and pathology, and systematics and evolution. It also invites experts to submit review articles on topics of current interest.
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