Responses of five small mammal species to micro-scale variations in
vegetation structure in secondary Atlantic Forest remnants, Brazil
Thomas Püttker* 1, Renata Pardini* 2, Yvonne Meyer-Lucht* 1 and Simone Sommer1
1Leibniz-Institute for Zoo- and Wildlife Research, Alfred-Kowalke-Str. 17, D-10315 Berlin, Germany
de São Paulo, Instituto de Biociências, Rua do Matão, travessa 14,
101/Departamento de Zoologia, Cidade Universitária, 05508-900, Sao
BMC Ecology 2008,
8:9. This is an Open Access article distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution License.
The Brazilian Atlantic Forest is highly endangered and only about 7%
of the original forest remains, most of which consists of fragments of
secondary forest. Small mammals in the Atlantic Forest have
differential responses to this process of fragmentation and conversion
of forest into anthropogenic habitats, and have varying abilities to
occupy the surrounding altered habitats. We investigated the influence
of vegetation structure on the micro-scale distribution of five small
mammal species in six secondary forest remnants in a landscape of
fragmented Atlantic Forest. We tested whether the occurrence of small
mammal species is influenced by vegetation structure, aiming to
ascertain whether species with different degrees of vulnerability to
forest fragmentation (not vulnerable: A. montensis, O. nigripes and G. microtarsus; vulnerable: M. incanus and D. sublineatus;
classification of vulnerability was based on the results of previous
studies) are associated with distinct vegetation characteristics.
Although vegetation structure differed among fragments, micro-scale
distribution of most of the species was influenced by vegetation
structure in a similar way in different fragments. Among the three
species that were previously shown not to be vulnerable to forest
fragmentation, A. montensis and G. microtarsus were present at locations with an open canopy and the occurrence of O. nigripes was
associated to a low canopy and a dense understory. On the other hand,
from the two species that were shown to be vulnerable to fragmentation,
M. incanus was captured most often at locations with a closed canopy while the distribution of D. sublineatus was not clearly influenced by micro-scale variation in vegetation structure.
Results indicate the importance of micro-scale variation in
vegetation structure for the distribution of small mammal species in
secondary forest fragments. Species that are not vulnerable to
fragmentation occurred at locations with vegetation characteristics of
more disturbed forest, while one of the species vulnerable to
fragmentation was found at locations with older forest characteristics.
Results suggest that micro-habitat preferences may be an important
factor influencing the capacity of small mammals to occupy altered
habitats and, consequently, their vulnerability to forest fragmentation
at a larger spatial scale.