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Structure and kinetics of rodent populations, in a region under agricultural land abandonment

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... Pelz 2003;Fuelling et al. 2010;Paz et al. 2013). Fossorial water voles may be predated by specialized predators, such as stoats (Mustela erminea), weasels (Mustela nivalis) or stone martens (Martes foina), which decrease vole number further low densities (Giraudoux et al. 1994;). But they may be also predated by unspecialized predators, such as foxes (Vulpes vulpes) (Weber & Aubry 1993) or barn owls (Tyto alba) (Nores 1989), which can switch to alternative preys when vole densities decrease (Giraudoux et al. 1994;). ...
... Fossorial water voles may be predated by specialized predators, such as stoats (Mustela erminea), weasels (Mustela nivalis) or stone martens (Martes foina), which decrease vole number further low densities (Giraudoux et al. 1994;). But they may be also predated by unspecialized predators, such as foxes (Vulpes vulpes) (Weber & Aubry 1993) or barn owls (Tyto alba) (Nores 1989), which can switch to alternative preys when vole densities decrease (Giraudoux et al. 1994;). Closed landscapes, such as those with abundant wooded areas, generally favour the presence of predators (Giraudoux et al. 1994). ...
... But they may be also predated by unspecialized predators, such as foxes (Vulpes vulpes) (Weber & Aubry 1993) or barn owls (Tyto alba) (Nores 1989), which can switch to alternative preys when vole densities decrease (Giraudoux et al. 1994;). Closed landscapes, such as those with abundant wooded areas, generally favour the presence of predators (Giraudoux et al. 1994). Accordingly, Giraudoux and co-workers (1994) proposed three main topics in landscape management to control fossorial water voles: ...
Thesis
The montane water vole Arvicola scherman occurs in mountainous areas of Europe, living in underground burrow systems located in grasslands and fruit orchards. This species feeds on the root system of plants, including fruit trees. Specifically, the subspecies A. scherman cantabriae is nowadays one of the main causes of economical loss in apple orchards of Asturias (northwestern Spain). An official control program in Spain considers all sustainable phytosanitary measures that can reduce population growth of this species. Since the pest condition of A. scherman depends on its biology and ecology, a deep knowledge of these aspects is needed to set up specific and suitable control strategies. Thus, the aim of this research is to obtain essential information on the reproductive biology and population genetics of this species in the agricultural landscape of Asturias. More than 800 individuals of A. scherman cantabriae were gathered in apple orchards located at low altitude in Villaviciosa and Nava municipalities during two annual cycles (from February 2011 to January 2013). Sexual characteristics, body measurements and relative age class of each specimen were recorded. Body condition of females, which indicates energy provision, and the number of embryos of each one were also wrote down. Skeletal muscle samples of 137 specimens from ten demes were used to conduct a microsatellite-based analysis (12 microsatellite loci). These orchards are placed in a landscape conformed by a mosaic of small and different land-use plots, which was assessed in a vector based geographic information system and it was focused on soil-occupancy categories. Pregnant females and young specimens were detected over the whole year, which mean that A. scherman cantabriae showed a continuous breeding pattern during the study period. Intra-annual changes in body mass and size of sexual organs of males did not affect significantly reproduction at a population scale. Thus, primary demands of these voles seem to be properly fulfilled during the whole year and hence energy budgets can be destined to cop continuous reproduction. To our knowledge, no other A. scherman population shows regularly this reproductive pattern. Females were able to produce a high number of litters per year (7.30) although litter size was relatively moderate (embryos/female: first year: 3.87; second year: 3.63). Each female was able to produce 28.25 pups per year. The reproductive potential showed by Cantabrian voles is, to our knowledge, the highest one reported to date for this species; probably because the breeding season does not entail a critical factor in this area. A positive correlation between litter size and the body condition of the mother was observed. Therefore, the body condition of females seems to be one of the main factors involved in the variation of the reproductive potential in A. scherman cantabriae. These studied demes showed relatively low level of genetic diversity (HE = 0.621; HO = 0.601; AR = 4.42) probably due to both the inbreeding and genetic drift effects. Significant genetic differentiation appeared among demes, which revealed a strong pattern of significant isolation-by-distance both for Euclidean distances (r = 0.790) and effective distances (r = 0.780). The spatial autocorrelation analysis detected four genetic clusters or populations in this study area (120 km2). Thus, this mosaic of different land-use plots decreases connectivity among suitable habitats even at local scale, in which A. scherman populations mainly depend on birth and death rates. An estuary and a four-lane road did not suppose a barrier for gene flow of this species. Less seasonal environment and highly patched landscape would suggest that this species does not show well marked multiannual fluctuations of density at large scale in this area. Control strategies for A. scherman cantabriae at a regional scale can be discarded. The monitoring of each population, or management unit, will be essential to know the population dynamic and to establish coordinated control strategies. Preserving and promoting this patchy landscape would favour the presence of predators and hamper dispersion of this species. A continuous population control throughout the year would be advisable, using sustainable methods, such as traps, the installation of barriers and/or coordinated manipulation of habitat.
... Surrounding ecotonal boundaries may cause individuals to tend to cluster inside the habitat [2,32], although all but two demes showed no significant heterozygosity deficiency, which is associated with inbreeding coefficients. Despite no study on predator pressure having been carried out to date, biological control conducted by both specialised vole predators (Mustela erminea, Mustela nivalis) and those that are not specialised (Vulpes vulpes, Tyto alba, Buteo buteo) [41,95] may play a notable role in this agro-ecosystem with plentiful resources [2]. This matrix could therefore be considered as a demographic sink, where gene flow of water voles is likely to decline because of short-distance dispersal and increased mortality [96]. ...
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The population dynamics of most animal species inhabiting agro-ecosystems may be determined by landscape characteristics, with agricultural intensification and the reduction of natural habitats influencing dispersal and hence limiting gene flow. Increasing landscape complexity would thus benefit many endangered species by providing different ecological niches, but it could also lead to undesired effects in species that can act as crop pests and disease reservoirs. We tested the hypothesis that a highly variegated landscape influences patterns of genetic structure in agricultural pest voles. Ten populations of fossorial water vole, Arvicola scherman, located in a bocage landscape in Atlantic NW Spain were studied using DNA microsatellite markers and a graph-based model. The results showed a strong isolation-by-distance pattern with a significant genetic correlation at smaller geographic scales, while genetic differentiation at larger geographic scales indicated a hierarchical pattern of up to eight genetic clusters. A metapopulation-type structure was observed, immersed in a landscape with a low proportion of suitable habitats. Matrix scale rather than matrix heterogeneity per se may have an important effect upon gene flow, acting as a demographic sink. The identification of sub-populations, considered to be independent management units, allows the establishment of feasible population control efforts in this area. These insights support the use of agro-ecological tools aimed at recreating enclosed field systems when planning integrated managements for controlling patch-dependent species such as grassland voles.
... Common voles ( M. arvalis ) typically inhabit agricultural land (Stein 1955) where they are an important food source for predators (Halle 1993). Occasional population outbreaks and the resulting crop damage motivated numerous studies (Spitz 1967;Giraudoux et al. 1994). Land management can affect population density, survival, and breeding of common voles (Jacob and Halle 2001). ...
... Study area. Data were collected from August 1979 to October 1996 at Septfontaines -Le Souillot (6.18°E, 46.97°N), in an area of 1400 ha (800 ha of farmland, 600 ha of forest), at an average altitude of 750-800 m above sea level 38 . There, 100% of the farmland was permanent grassland used for pasture and (high grass) meadow for cattle feeding in winter (minimum 6 months, November-March), with a productivity ranging from 2.3 tonnes of dry matter.ha ...
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Rodent outbreaks have plagued European agriculture for centuries, but continue to elude comprehensive explanation. Modelling and empirical work in some cyclic rodent systems suggests that changes in reproductive parameters are partly responsible for observed population dynamics. Using a 17-year time series of Microtus arvalis population abundance and demographic data, we explored the relationship between meteorological conditions (temperature and rainfall), female reproductive activity, and population growth rates in a non-cyclic population of this grassland vole species. We found strong but complex relationships between female reproduction and climate variables, with spring female reproduction depressed after cold winters. Population growth rates were, however, uncorrelated with either weather conditions (current and up to three months prior) or with female reproduction (number of foetuses per female and/or proportion of females reproductively active in the population). These results, coupled with age-structure data, suggest that mortality, via predation, disease, or a combination of the two, are responsible for the large multi-annual but non-cyclic population dynamics observed in this population of the common vole.
... In these latter habitats, some rodent species prone to cyclicity can thrive at very large population densities (e.g. [45,46,44]), and importantly with comparatively low vegetation, they are more easily accessible to fox and dog predators [47]. Farmland, due to the high productivity of agrosystems can also provide temporary favourable habitats for high densities of small mammals, but tilling and seasonality of resources are often strong limiting factors. ...
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Background: Human alveolar echinococcosis caused by infection with Echinococcus multilocularis is one of the most potentially pathogenic helminthic zoonoses. Transmission occurs involving wildlife cycles typically between fox and small mammal intermediate hosts. In the late 1980s/early 1990s a large focus of human AE was identified in poor upland agricultural communities in south Gansu Province, China. More detailed investigations in 1994-97 expanded community screening and identified key risk factors of dog ownership and landscape type around villages that could support susceptible rodent populations. A crash of the dog population (susceptible domestic definitive host) in the early 1990s appeared to stop transmission. Methodology/findings: We subsequently undertook follow-up eco-epidemiological studies based on human population screening and dog survey, in 2005/6 and in 2014/15. Our observations show a decrease in human AE prevalence, especially marked in the 11-30 year old age category. In 2015, although the dog population had recovered and in addition, forest protection and the reforestation of some areas may have favoured red fox (wild definitive host) population growth, there was no evidence of infection in owned dogs. Conclusions/significance: Those observations suggest that over decades socio-ecological changes resulted in a cascade of factors that exacerbated and then interrupted parasite emergence, with probable elimination of peri-domestic transmission of E. multilocularis in this area, despite the relative proximity of large active transmission foci on the eastern Tibetan Plateau. This study case exemplifies how anthropogenic land use and behavioural changes can modify emergence events and the transmission of endemic zoonotic parasite infections, and subsequently the importance of considering processes over the long-term in a systems approach in order to understand pathogen and disease distribution.
... Previous studies in southern Moravia have shown that fallow plots with weeds are highly suitable habitats for both voles and mice (Holisova et al. 1962, Heroldova et al. 2005. Such plots host a diverse range of vegetation, providing seeds over a long fruiting period and green biomass suitable for both herbivorous and granivorous species (Giraudoux et al. 1994, Gorman 1995, Rogers and Gorman 1995, Sotherton 1998, Tattersall et al. 1999, Heroldova et al. 2005. In our study, vole diet was closely related to the food available in the set-aside field, while mice appeared to seek out seeds and grains over a wider range, seeking and taking seeds from cereal fields in the neighbourhood (Holisova 1959, Holisova et al. 1962. ...
Article
We examined the feeding strategy of two dominant rodents, the common vole ( Microtus arvalis ) and the pygmy field mouse ( Apodemus uralensis ), in set-aside fields over a period of 1 year. Diet analysis revealed dominance of green plant shoots in common vole’s diet and seeds in the diet of the pygmy field mouse. Food availability in the set-aside fields was strongly correlated with the diet of the herbivorous common vole, but not with that of the granivorous pygmy-field mouse. Both feeding strategies reflect specific morphological adaptations of the digestive tract of both species. A comparison of the gastrointestinal tract (GIT; length and mass without oesophagus; including contents) of the common vole and pygmy field mouse revealed a correlation between body size and length and the GIT weight in both species. The common vole had a proportionally heavier GIT with a larger of the common vole and pygmy field mouse relative proportion of caecum. The GIT length was proportionally greater in juvenile females, while the GIT weight was greater in adult females of both species. The GIT morphometry of both species varied with season and reproductive status, presumably as food consumed altered in line with vegetation phenology and the rodent’s energy requirements.
Chapter
Echinococcus multilocularis is a cestode parasite that circulates in a lifecycle alternating larval and adult forms. The human disease is named alveolar echinococcosis, because of the “alveolar” structure of the parasitic pseudotumor caused by the development of the E. multilocularis larva. In the Jura Massif, under the direction of Pierre Delattre, INRA researchers sampled local small mammal populations from 1979 to 1996 in order to understand the causation of grassland vole outbreaks and their decline phases. The parasite was found in several rodent species over that period. This chapter presents the results obtained over decades in the Jura socioecosystem using this multidisciplinary approach, and examines how this research has been successfully applied to other transmission systems in Asia, mainly in western China and also in southern Kyrgyzstan. Echinococcus multilocularis 's prevalence on a landscape scale rarely exceeds one per thousand in a vole population, even in highly endemic areas.
Chapter
Rodent outbreaks have, in historical memory and at more or less regular intervals, massively affected crops and stored goods locally and sometimes even regionally. The Jura Massif is known, among other things, for its cheese specialties with several emblematic protected designations of origin (PDO), such as Comté, Morbier, Mont‐d'or and Bleu de Gex. In the 1950s, in this region of medium‐altitude mountains, grassland covered between 20% and almost 75% of farmland, regardless of altitude. From the early 1980s to the mid‐1990s, population demographic monitoring of small mammals was carried out in the Septfontaines and Le Souillot area, covering nearly 20,000 hectares. It has been suggested that predation is a major driver of fluctuations in rodent populations. It has taken about 30 years to describe and understand the factors that determine vole outbreaks in the Jura Massif in PDO grassland areas and to establish the basis for controlling them.
Article
Der Einfluss von Landschaftsfaktoren auf die Prävalenz von Echinococcus multilocularis bei Rotfüchsen (Vulpes vulpes) wurde am Beispiel Baden-Württembergs (35 900 km2) geprüft. Die Untersuchung von 7218 Füchsen mit der Darmabstrichmethode ergab 1995 - 2000 eine Prävalenz von 37%. Ein landesweites Monitoring-Programm des Ministeriums für Ernährung und Ländlichen Raum mit einem kommerziellen Koproantigen-ELISA (Chekit Echinotest, Dr. Bommeli-AG) 2002 - 2003 zeigte bei 5794 Füchsen eine korrigierte Prävalenz von 48%. Zwar sind die Prävalenzen der beiden Zeiträume aufgrund der unterschiedlichen Nachweismethoden nicht direkt vergleichbar, jedoch war eine räumliche Verlagerung der Hochendemiegebiete von Süden nach Norden feststellbar. Der Vergleich mit der Landnutzung basierte auf den Daten einer europäischen CORINE-Landnutzungskarte, deren Eignung für großräumige Analysen durch die Kartierung einer Gemeinde (4600 ha) validiert wurde. Für die Studie 1995 - 2000 ergaben sich signifikante Prävalenzunterschiede zwischen Gras- (50%), Acker- (43%), Wald- (31%) und Stadtgebieten (24%), was sich in der Studie 2002 - 2003 bestätigte. Unterschiede in der Habitateignung für Zwischenwirte werden als Gründe für diese Korrelation diskutiert. Um räumliche und zeitliche, landschaftsunabhängige Fluktuationen der Prävalenz erkennen zu können, sollten Sentinel-Gebiete mit unterschiedlichen Landnutzungsarten langfristig beobachtet werden. The influence of the land use on the prevalence of Echinococcus multilocularis in red foxes (Vulpes vulpes) was studied using the German federal state of Baden- Württemberg (35 900 km²) as example. The examination of 7218 foxes 1995 - 2000 with the intestinal scraping method (IST) resulted in a prevalence of 37%. A state wide monitoring program by the Ministry for Agriculture with a commercial coproantigen-ELISA (Chekit Echinotest, Dr. Bommeli-AG) 2002 / 2003 revealed a corrected prevalence of 48%, based on 5794 foxes. Because of the different diagnostic methods a direct comparison of the prevalence levels is not possible, but a shift of high endemicity areas from south to north was recognised. The comparison with landscape data was based on the European CORINE land cover data, that was validated by a field survey of one commune (4600 ha) for analyses on a regional scale. Using data from the survey 1995 - 2000, significant differences in prevalences were revealed between foxes in grassland (50%), agriculture (43%), forest (31%) and urban zones (24%), which was confirmed with data from the study 2002 / 2003. Differences in the frequency of habitats suitable for intermediate hosts are discussed as reasons for this correlation. To recognise space, time and landscape independent fluctuations of the prevalence, sentinel areas with different landscape composition should be selected for long term monitoring.
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