Small mammals as indicators of short-term and long-term disturbance in mixed prairie

Sherry A. Leis, David M. Leslie, David M. Engle, Jeffrey S. Fehmi

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

31 Scopus citations


Disturbance by military maneuvers over short and long time scales may have differential effects on grassland communities. We assessed small mammals as indicators of disturbance by military maneuvers in a mixed prairie in southern Oklahoma USA. We examined sites on two soil series, Foard and Lawton, across a gradient of disturbance intensity. A MANOVA showed that abundance of small mammals was associated (p = 0.03) with short-term (cover of vehicle tracks) disturbance but was not associated (p = 0.12) with long-term (loss of soil organic carbon, SOC) disturbance intensity. At the individual species level, Sigmodon hispidus (cotton rat) and Peromyscus maniculatus (deer mouse) occurred across all levels of disturbance and in both soil types. Only P. maniculatus abundance changed (p < 0.01) with short-term disturbance and increased by about one individual per 5% of additional track-cover. Abundance of P. maniculatus also increased (p = 0.04) by about three individuals per 1% increase in soil carbon. Chaetodipus hispidus (hispid pocket mouse) and Reithrodontomys fulvescens (fulvous harvest mouse) only occurred in single soil types limiting their potential as more general indicators. Abundance of P. maniculatus was positively related to shifts in plant species composition and likely reflected changes in vegetation structure (i.e. litter depth) and forage availability resulting from disturbance. Peromyscus maniculatus may be a useful biological indicator of ecosystem change because it responded predictably to both long-term and short-term disturbance and, when coupled with soil, plant, and disturbance history variables, can reveal land condition trends.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)75-84
Number of pages10
JournalEnvironmental Monitoring and Assessment
Issue number1-3
StatePublished - Feb 2008


  • Bioindicators
  • Community dynamics
  • Litter
  • Military disturbance
  • Oklahoma
  • Peromyscus maniculatus
  • Small mammal
  • Soilorganic carbon
  • Temporal dynamics

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • General Environmental Science
  • Pollution
  • Management, Monitoring, Policy and Law


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