Conservation Biology

Edge Effects and Isolation: Red-Backed Voles Revisited

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Courtesy of Conservation Biology

Abstract: We examined demographic responses of California red-backed voles (Clethrionomys californicus) to forest fragmentation in southwestern Oregon at sites where this species has previously shown negative responses to fragmentation. Voles were captured in live traps and released. Voles were rarely caught in clearcuts surrounding 11 forest fragments, but relative vole density did not decrease from the forest-fragment interiors to edges. The first result agrees with previous findings at these sites 6 years earlier, but the latter result does not. There was no evidence that vole response to edge changes with fragment age. Two years of intensive mark-recapture efforts at two forest-fragment sites and two unfragmented (control) sites did not show negative effects of fragmentation on vole survival, an important demographic rate. Vole capture probabilities varied greatly across space and time on these four sites, which may explain the differences in vole responses to edge seen between this and the previous study. These results suggest that reliable appraisal of edge effects may be difficult for many species on small fragments because the data necessary to apply population estimators require great efforts to obtain and the use of indices leads to a confounding of detection probabilities with demographic change.

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