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Agricultural land use alters trophic status and population density of deer mice (Peromyscus maniculatus) on the North American Great Plains

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Habitat conversion is among the most important causes of environmental change worldwide, yet relatively little is known about its potential influence on trophic interactions. We investigated the effects of agricultural land use on carbon and nitrogen stable isotope values, trophic status, population density, and body condition of deer mice (Peromyscus maniculatus (Wagner, 1845)) in a grassland ecosystem. Muscle δ15N (cropland = 7.6‰ ± 1.3‰; hay fields = 7.9‰ ± 1.3‰; native prairie = 7.2‰ ± 2.1‰) from deer mice did not vary with land use despite baseline soil and vegetation δ15N differences. Enrichment of deer mice over vegetation (Δδ15N) was, on average, a full trophic level (~2.5‰) higher on native prairie (6.4‰ ± 1.6‰) than on cropland (3.9‰ ± 2.3‰), and intermediate in hay fields (5.9‰ ± 2.0‰). Relative density of deer mice was more than twofold higher in crop and hay fields compared with native prairie, but body condition did not vary with land use. Our results suggest that agricultural activity caused a shift in the trophic level and relative abundance of a generalist grassland omnivore. Soil and vegetation δ15N reflected anthropogenic N inputs to agricultural fields but were not useful as general markers of habitat use in this study.

Keywords: Peromyscus maniculatus; deer mouse; engrais; fertilizer; grassland; isotopes stables; petits mammifères; prairie; small mammals; souris sylvestre; stable isotopes; trophic ecology; écologie trophique

Document Type: Research Article


Affiliations: 1: Department of Biology, University of Regina, 3737 Wascana Parkway, Regina, SK S4S 0A2, Canada. 2: Life Sciences, Royal Saskatchewan Museum, 2340 Albert Street, Regina, SK S4P 2V7, Canada.

Publication date: July 19, 2012

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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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