Date of Award:

5-2009

Document Type:

Thesis

Degree Name:

Master of Science (MS)

Department:

Wildland Resources

Advisor/Chair:

John A. Bissonette

Abstract

The small mammal communities of central Africa are not well understood, and the southwestern section of Gabon has not been previously surveyed except for some recent work in Monts Doudou. At five sites within the Gamba Complex we set out to 1) document the species of terrestrial rodents (Muridae) and shrews (Soricidae) weighing less than 100 g, 2) compare the community composition between inland and coastal sites, and 3) evaluate our sampling protocols. Using a combination of pitfall lines, Sherman live traps, and snap traps we captured 721 individuals of 12 rodent and 10 shrew species in 15,792 trap-nights. The rodent community was dominated by Hylomyscus stella and the shrew community by Sylvisorex johnstoni, in agreement with nearby studies. The coastal sites were less diverse with 3 rodent species and 1 shrew species only found at inland sites. The inland Rabi site had the most diverse small mammal community due to 2 species captured in secondary forests and fields near the oil facility. Our use of pitfalls was essential to our capture of shrews, and our protocol of switching from live to snap traps midway through the trapping period resulted in more species than expected.

The ecological factors influencing distribution patterns of small mammals in central Africa is not well understood. We evaluated the role of disturbance at paired inland and coastal sites using landscape variables generated from satellite imagery. Regression analyses revealed that while the amount of forest present at a site was strongly correlated with rodent richness (F = 16.437; df = 1; p = 0.001), shrew richness was negatively correlated with the amount of roads (partial F = 12.232; df = 1; p = 0.007) and rainfall (partial F = 6.035; df = 1; p = 0.036) and positively with elevation (partial F = 6.832; df = 1; p = 0.028). Our results suggest that while disturbance at Rabi has created additional habitats for rodents, the loss of specialist rodents from coastal sites reflects their inability to tolerate the edge-affected, fragmented, and less diverse forests in that region.

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