Small mammal community stability
May 2014 - May 2016
- Maine Outdoor Heritage Fund
The small mammal community is an integral part of Maine’s forest ecosystems, yet we know very little about the community’s overall ecological stability. Declines in common and abundant species can have dramatic effects on ecosystem function. Given a rapidly changing climate and increasing human demands of the land, it is important to understand how these systems will respond to stress. We will survey the small mammal community and the environments in which they are found along elevational gradients representing different climates in the mountains of Maine to answer the following questions. Are small mammal communities ecologically resilient to environmental change? Is the small mammal community uniform across ecological space? If community changes occur, are they likely to be gradual, or abrupt? We will also focus on high-elevation species facing particularly high ecological stress: the Northern Bog Lemming (Synaptomys borealis) and the Yellow-Nosed Vole (Microtus chrotorrhinus). Climate change is recognized as a persistent long-term threat to high-elevation species, and in Maine wind-energy development on ridgelines and mountaintops poses an acute and urgent threat to those species. Findings from this study will help inform the Maine Department of Inland Fisheries and Wildlife and land managers in Maine of the stability of the small mammal community and the potential impacts of environmental change on key components of the larger ecosystem.