Small mammals and microhabitats in Araucaria forests of Neuquén, Argentina


We used mark-recapture techniques to sample small mammals in two Araucaria araucanaNothofagus forest plots at dry and mesic ends of a moisture gradient in Neuquén, Argentina. In summer and fall trapping sessions from 2004 to 2007, we had 678 captures (323 individuals) of 6 species in a total of 5300 trap nights. Abrothrix hirta (64% of captures) was captured in every trapping session, but Oligoryzomys longicaudatus (26%) was trapped only in the fall. Both species had lower body weights when Araucaria seed crop was very small. O. longicaudatus appears to migrate into Araucaria forest from other habitats to exploit the autumn seed fall. We measured 9 canopy and 19 understory variables around 100 trap sites and used factor analysis to identify 4 canopy and 6 understory factors in each forest. We used regression to model capture-vegetation relationships. Features of the understory had greater influence than did the canopy. Capture-vegetation models were more complex in the moist forest than in the dry forest. In the moist forest, more A. hirta and O. longicaudatus were caught in patches of bamboo (Chusquea culeou), and away from grass and open areas, but these species differed in capture rates in other kinds of understory vegetation. There was less overlap between species’ microhabitats in the dry forest. More individuals of both species were caught away from patches of fallen logs, but A. hirta and O. longicaudatus responded differently to other features of the understory. Spatial, temporal and behavioral differences in the way A. hirta and O. longicaudatus use these forests and its Araucaria seed falls promote coexistence and community complexity.

Pequeños mamíferos y microhábitats en bosques de Araucaria de Neuquén, Argentina. Utilizamos métodos de marcado-captura-recaptura para muestrear pequeños mamíferos en un bosque húmedo y un bosque seco de Araucaria araucana–Nothofagus en Neuquén, Argentina. Durante 4 años, en verano y otoño, se realizaron 678 capturas (323 individuos) de 6 especies en un total de 5300 trampa noches. Abrothrix hirta (64% de capturas) se capturó en cada trampeo, pero Oligoryzomys longicaudatus (26%) se capturó solo en otoño. Ambas especies de ratones presentaron menor peso cuando la producción de semillas de Araucaria fue muy baja. O. longicaudatus parece migrar de otros hábitats hacia los bosques de Araucaria para explotar la caída de semillas en otoño. Medimos 9 variables del dosel y 19 variables del sotobosque alrededor de 100 sitios de trampa y utilizamos análisis factorial para identificar 4 factores propios del dosel y 6 factores propios del sotobosque en cada bosque. Utilizamos modelos de regresión para encontrar relaciones entre las capturas y los factores de vegetación. Las tasas de captura estuvieron más influidas por características del sotobosque que por las del dosel. Los modelos de captura-vegetación resultaron más complejos en el bosque húmedo que en el bosque seco. En el bosque húmedo, más individuos de A. hirta y O. longicaudatus fueron capturados en parches de caña, y lejos de pasto y zonas abiertas, pero estas especies difieren en las tasas de captura en otros tipos del sotobosque. Hubo menos solapamiento entre microhábitats en el bosque seco. Ambas especies fueron capturadas más frecuentemente lejos de parches de troncos caídos, pero A. hirta y O. longicaudatus respondieron de manera diferente a otras características del sotobosque. Diferencias espaciales, temporales y de comportamiento en la manera de uso de estos bosques por A. hirta y O. longicaudatus promueven la coexistencia y la complejidad de la comunidad.

Human use and small mammal communities of Araucaria forests in Neuquén, Argentina


Small mammals were sampled in five closed, humid, Araucaria araucana forests that differed in the degree of anthropogenic disturbance in southwestern Neuquén Province. Nine species were captured in 3416 trap nights. Abrothrix longipilis and Oligoryzomys longicaudatus made up 88% of all captures. Small mammal relative abundance was 52 times higher where grazing was absent compared to a site with intense grazing pressure. Seed predation, primarily by livestock and feral exotic mammals, varied from 59.7% to 15.1% of marked seeds per day. Small mammal community productivity and composition were correlated with understory structure (Mantel test, r = 0.529, p = 0.04), and with rates of seed predation (r = -0.91, n = 4, p = 0.08). Forests with less complex understories had fewer captures and lower mammal diversity. Exotic large mammals appear to affect native small mammals by simplifying the structure of the forest understory and by competing for seeds. Four native species (Abrothrix longipilis, Oligoryzomys longicaudatus, Chelemys macronyx, and Irenomys tarsalis) ate Araucaria piñones. Anthropogenic changes in small mammal communities indicate that management of feral and domestic mammals needs to be a prominent part of the conservation of these majestic forests.