Do reclaimed areas within natural gas fields augment deer mouse body condition and abundance?
presentationposted on 19.06.2017, 00:00 by Brittany Wagler
Habitat loss and fragmentation from anthropogenic activities alters habitat availability for wildlife and can result in changes to wildlife behavior, space use, and fitness. Discerning both how and why populations change in response to habitat alteration can improve our understanding of community structure and species interactions across trophic levels in disturbed systems. Energy development is a growing source of habitat alteration worldwide. Some small mammals, including deer mice (Peromyscus maniculatus), are known to be more prevalent in areas with increased habitat loss from natural gas development, leading to increased predation rates for co-occurring songbirds. Why rodents may be more abundant in gas fields, however, remains unclear. We investigated whether mice receive fitness benefits from living near development. We hypothesized deer mouse populations are augmented by food subsidies in reclaimed areas adjacent to well pads. Accordingly, we predicted increased abundance and improved fitness for deer mouse populations adjacent to reclaimed areas compared to populations far-removed from reclaimed areas, and increased abundance with grass cover in reclaimed areas. Although we found no difference in abundance or fitness metrics between mice living near and far from development, we found higher abundance of deer mice near reclaimed areas with higher densities of grasses (an important food resource). Understanding mechanisms underlying small mammal abundance near energy development will facilitate development of targeted management strategies to protect vulnerable species of songbirds breeding near energy development.