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Behaviour of specialist species in habitat corridors: arboreal dormice avoid corridor gaps

Animal Behaviour


Linear habitat elements (corridors) may be important for species survival if they promote dispersal between fragments of suitable habitat, although there is little understanding of the behavioural basis for their use. I conducted experiments to determine how the movement of an arboreal habitat specialist species (the dormouse, Muscardinus avellanarius) was affected by gaps in corridors (hedgerows) and the presence of food resources. Movement in noncorridor habitat were also assessed. Translocated dormice were clearly averse to crossing even narrow gaps in hedgerows and remained in hedgerows, rather than move into surrounding noncorridor habitat. Gaps are thus likely to constrain movement along habitat corridors. Dormice travelled further in a hedgerow lacking food resources, implying that lack of food may (within an animal's fasting endurance);actually promote movement. Although strongly arboreal, dormice were able to locomote rapidly through noncorridor habitat (a grass held). Noncorridor habitat thus does not represent a complete barrier to movements of at least 100 m. The results imply that appropriately managed hedgerows (without gaps) may play an important role as corridors in the dispersal of dormice between woodlands. (C) 1998 The Association for the Study of Animal Behaviour.

Author(s): Bright, PW

Journal: Animal Behaviour

Year: 1998