Wildlife Research Wildlife Research Society
Ecology, management and conservation in natural and modified habitats
RESEARCH ARTICLE

Reproduction and survival of rodents in crop fields: the effects of rainfall, crop stage and stone-bund density

Yonas Meheretu A B H , Kiros Welegerima A , Vincent Sluydts B C , Hans Bauer D , Kindeya Gebrehiwot E , Jozef Deckers F , Rhodes Makundi G and Herwig Leirs B
+ Author Affiliations
- Author Affiliations

A Mekelle University, Department of Biology, PO Box 3102, Mekelle, Ethiopia.

B University of Antwerp, Evolutionary Ecology Group, Groenenborgerlaan 171, 2020 Antwerp, Belgium.

C Institute of Tropical Medicine, Nationalestraat 155, 2000 Antwerp, Belgium.

D WildCRU – The Recanati–Kaplan Centre, Zoology, University of Oxford, Tubney OX13 5QL, UK.

E Department of Land Resource Management & Environmental Protection, Mekelle University, PO Box 231, Mekelle, Ethiopia.

F Division of Soil and Water Management, K.U. Leuven, Celestijnenlaan 200E, 3001 Heverlee, Belgium.

G Sokoine University of Agriculture, Pest Management Center, PO Box 3110, Morogoro, Tanzania.

H Corresponding author. Email: meheretu@yahoo.com; meheretu.yonas@mu.edu.et

Wildlife Research 42(2) 158-164 https://doi.org/10.1071/WR14121
Submitted: 17 June 2014  Accepted: 27 December 2014   Published: 22 May 2015

Abstract

Context: Reproduction and survival are two of the most important demographic factors that play a major role in changing population abundances of pest species over time and space, solid understanding of which is a useful input to forecast future population changes for proactive management.

Aims: We investigated the effects of rainfall, crop-development stage and density of stone bunds on reproductive patterns, and the effects of stone-bund density and sex on survival probabilities of two widespread rodent species (Mastomys awashensis and Arvicanthis dembeensis) in Ethiopian highlands.

Methods: Rodent population dynamics were monitored from April 2007 to February 2011, using capture–mark–recapture (CMR) technique in four 60 × 60 m permanent square grids for four consecutive cropping seasons. Two of the grids represented fields with low stone-bund density (LSBD, ~15 m apart) and the other two represented fields with high stone-bund density (HSBD, ~10 m apart).

Key results: Reproduction was seasonal, commencing during the wet season following the rain and continuing through the early dry season. We found an increase in the abundance of reproductively active female individuals of both species towards the milky and fruiting crop stages and around harvest period. We found no strong difference in survival probability between the two rodent species with variation in stone-bund density and sex.

Conclusion: Stone bunds play a minor role in the reproduction and survival of the rodent species at the observed abundances.

Implications: In terms of pest management, the high local survival rates estimated for both rodent species matter more than survival differences owing to variations in stone-bund density and sex.

Additional keywords: Arvicanthis dembeensis, Ethiopia, Mastomys awashensis, pest control.


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