Arable habitat use by wood mice (Apodemus sylvaticus). 3. A farm-scale experiment on the effects of crop rotation
Macdonald DW., Tew TE., Todd IA., Garner JP., Johnson PJ.
We investigated the effects of crop type on numbers and movements of wood mice Apodemus sylvaticus in field edges and in arable fields containing either winter wheat, winter barley or oil-seed rape, grown on a 3-year rotation. We also investigated the effect of habitat (field centre vs edge), and of season and year. This was done at the individual level using radio-tracking, and at the population level using live-trapping. Wood mouse population size (estimated as minimum number alive) was significantly affected by season. Wood mouse numbers also differed between crop types. Rape field centres and edges had significantly lower numbers than did barley or wheat field centres and edges. Populations were largest from April to July, when the crop was tall. In winter, significantly more mice were found in field edges compared with field centres. The patterns of movement of individual mice also showed differences between habitats and between seasons. Mice were found to move more quickly when they were tracked through rape compared with the other crops. When the crop was growing, they moved faster through field edges bordered with hedgerow than they did through wood. This pattern was reversed later in the year when the crop was tall. The distances moved during a session of tracking showed differences which paralleled those for speed of movement. Also, males tended to move faster than females. Differences between the sexes in movement patterns were affected by season; when the crop was down (in winter) females moved further than males during a session of tracking, but when the crop was growing and tall, this was reversed.