• Riparian vegetated margins and small mammal communities: Implications for agri-environment schemes

      O hUallachain, Daire; Madden, D.; Department of Agriculture, Food and the Marine, Ireland (School of Agriculture, Food Science and Veterinary Medicine, University College Dublin in association with Teagasc, 2011)
      Small mammals play a vital role in agricultural ecosystems and influence the diversity and abundance of avian and terrestrial predators. Increasing small mammal populations on farmland is important for improving the biodiversity of agricultural ecosystems. This study assessed the small mammal communities associated with 42 riparian margins in the south-east of Ireland. Riparian margins were separated into those dominated by grassy, scrubby or woody vegetation. Results suggested that riparian margins dominated by woody vegetation had the greatest abundance of small mammals. Significantly more small mammals were captured in woody habitats as opposed to grassy or scrubby habitats. Although they had the greatest abundance of small mammals, woody habitats showed the least diversity, with the small mammal community consisting almost entirely of woodmice. Results from this study suggest that current Irish agri-environmental measures, which can lead to succession of vegetation and result in scrub and wood dominated margins, do not promote small mammal diversity in riparian margins. Current prescriptions are not providing optimal habitat for protected species such as the pygmy shrew. Future agri-environment measures should promote heterogeneity of watercourse margins, which in turn will enhance small mammal abundance and also their diversity.