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Grazing as a conservation management tool: Responses of voles to grazer species and densities

Lagendijk, D. D. G., Howison, R. A., Esselink, P. & Smit, C., Feb-2019, In : Basic and Applied Ecology. 34, p. 36-45 10 p.

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  • Grazing as a conservation management tool: Responses of voles to grazer species and densities

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DOI

Grazing is a widely applied conservation management tool, but the optimal regime for biodiversity conservation is still unknown. The effects of grazers on small mammals are not yet fully understood and mostly restricted to studies which compare grazed with ungrazed areas. We determined the effect of different livestock grazers and densities and a rotation regime, on voles in a conservation area in The Netherlands. We used a 7-year grazing experiment with horse and cattle grazing at two densities namely 0.5 and 1 animal ha(-1) (equivalent to 0.4 and 0.8 LSU), including a rotation regime i.e. 1 year summer grazing with 1 cattle ha(-1) followed by 1 ungrazed year. We recorded vole activity signs as a measure for presence (i.e. presence of burrow entrances, droppings, runways and plant clippings) in circular 2 m(2) plots along transects. Low grazer densities, regardless of species, corresponded to higher vole presence. Vole presence tended to be greater with cattle grazing than with horse grazing, but the difference was not significant. The increase in vole presence was greater in the rotation regime than with low or high density cattle grazing. The different vole activity signs provided similar results to each other with the exception of burrow entrances, suggesting that this measure is less accurate in predicting vole presence. Hence, voles clearly responded to the different grazing regimes. Our results have high relevance for conservation, in particular in systems where small mammals contribute to important ecological processes (e.g. bioturbation, seed dispersal) and play a crucial role in the survival of (iconic) higher trophic level taxa such as raptors or mammalian predators. In such systems, conservation management may best implement low-density cattle or rotation grazing. (C) 2018 Gesellschaft fur Okologie. Published by Elsevier GmbH. All rights reserved.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)36-45
Number of pages10
JournalBasic and Applied Ecology
Volume34
Publication statusPublished - Feb-2019

    Keywords

  • Cattle, Common vole, Horse, Microtus arvails, Nature management, Salt marsh, Vole sign index, Large herbivore grazing, OWLS ASIO-FLAMMEUS, SMALL MAMMALS, SALT MARSHES, MICROTUS-ARVALIS, STOCKING DENSITY, LARGE HERBIVORES, POPULATIONS, LIVESTOCK, BIODIVERSITY, IMPACT

ID: 118802722