Habitat use by wood mice (Apodemus sylvaticus) in a changeable arable landscape
Tattersall FH., Macdonald DW., Hart BJ., Manley WJ., Feber RE.
Wood mice Apodemus sylvaticus are potentially useful indicators of change in arable ecosystems. Here we focus on changes resulting from removal of land from arable production under the set-aside scheme. Wood mice were radio-tracked to compare: (a) their use of set-aside, crop and hedgerow before and after harvest; (b) set-aside configured as margins and as a 3 ha block; (c) cut and uncut 20-m wide set-aside margins. Males had larger home ranges, and were more mobile than females. Ranges were larger, and animals more mobile, before harvest than afterwards. There were no differences in range sizes of breeding and non-breeding animals after harvest, suggesting that changes in habitat use were not a function of cessation of breeding. Before harvest, wood mice used habitats within their ranges at random, and their ranges contained a high proportion of cropped area. After harvest they preferred hedgerow and avoided margin set-aside within their ranges, but did not similarly avoid the set-aside block. The proportion of cropped area within their ranges decreased after harvest, and the proportion of margin increased. Our evidence suggests wood mice avoided using the area adjacent to the hedgerow, perhaps to avoid predators. Uncut set-aside patches were favoured and cut patches avoided, possibly in response to differences in food availability and levels of protection from predators. These results confirm that wood mice are useful indicators of change in arable landscapes.