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Organic farms as refuges for small mammal biodiversity in agro ecosystems

Jensen, Thomas Secher; Hansen, Tine Sussi and Olsen, Kent (2011) Organic farms as refuges for small mammal biodiversity in agro ecosystems. Working paper. [Completed]

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Habitat fragmentation, the process by which relatively continuous habitats is broken into smaller pieces, occurs in natural systems but is to a high degree also human-induced through landscape use. Fragmentation of the landscape produces a series of habitat patches surrounded by a matrix of different habitats and land use regimes. The major landscape consequences of fragmentation are loss of habitat, reduction in habitat patch size, and increasing isolation of habitat patches. In general, population performance declines in response to habitat loss but size of remaining area and isolation effects is known also to influence the population trend. Small mammals are well suited for examination of population responses to habitat
fragmentation as they have modest spatial requirements and short generation times.
In theory, organic farms could play an important role in the agricultural landscape as refuges for some small
mammal species, as the lack of pesticide and fertiliser treatment, less weed control, more diversified crop structure and a general environmental friendly attitude, form a basis for habitats that provide cover and food
for small mammals, and thus for larger predators of these species. Furthermore, density and area of small biotopes could be expected to be higher in the organic farms, thus leading to a decreased distance between optimal habitats.
This study compares species diversity and abundance of small mammals in conventional farms and intensively and extensively grown organic farms. In a wide range of different fields in conventional and organic farms, the diversity and density of small mammals were investigated by live-trapping sessions, comprising trap lines with 15 meters between each trap. We studied the responses of populations (belonging to 11 species of small mammals) to habitat patches of different size and different surrounding management strategies (ecological and conventional farming). We found a general correlation between the number of small mammal individuals and small biotope size.
This correlation applies in autumn as well as in spring. There is only a weak tendency for more small mammals in small biotopes within organic farms compared within conventional farms. The number of small mammal species stabilises at small biotope sizes around 1000 square meters. The value of organic farms in respect to small mammal biodiversity depends mainly upon the number and area of small biotopes, and only to a minor degree upon the treatments of the fields.

EPrint Type:Working paper
Keywords:organic farming, small mammal biodiversity, habitat fragmentation, species-area relationship
Subjects: Farming Systems
Environmental aspects
Knowledge management
Research affiliation: Denmark > DARCOF III (2005-2010) > REFUGIA - The role of Organic Farms as refugia for biodiversity
Deposited By: Jensen, Museum director Thomas Secher
ID Code:19072
Deposited On:30 Jun 2011 10:49
Last Modified:26 Jul 2011 10:05
Document Language:English

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