The ecology of small mammals in set-aside land
The ecology of small mammal communities found in set-aside and adjacent farm land was investigated to determine the ecological consequences of set-aside land to small mammals. Field work was carried out for two years at three study sites in NE Scotland. First Aldroughty farm, a mosaic of set-aside, crop and semi-natural land. The two remaining study sites; Ythan Lodge at Newburgh, and Fraser's farm near Aldroughty, were whole fields of set-aside. Wood mice Apodemus sylvaticus, bank voles Clethrionomys glareolus and field voles Microtus agrestis were trapped in the habitat mosaic at Aldroughty, and wood mice and field voles in the set-aside at Newburgh. Wood mice had higher densities, greater survival, heavier weights, longer breeding seasons and more juveniles at Aldroughty than Newburgh. These differences were thought to be due to a difference in habitat productivity between the two sites. Field voles showed less of a difference in population dynamics between Aldroughty and Newburgh, and both species of vole maintained populations at low density. The home range size of 33 wood mice was measured using radiotelemetry. At both study sites home range size was smaller than in other habitats revealed by other studies. The apparently anomalous results obtained, of low population densities and small home range sizes of wood mice in the set-aside at Newburgh, may have been due to predation from cats Felis catus. Wood mice showed no clear habitat preference, nesting and foraging in all habitat types, while both vole species showed almost exclusive preference for rough grassland. An assessment of the habitat characteristics of the study sites showed that there was heterogeneity in the vegetation communities found in set-aside.