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We capitalized on a regional-scale, anthropogenic experiment?the reduction of black-tailed prairie dog (Cynomys ludovicianus) towns across the Great Plains of North America?to test the hypothesis that decline of this species has led to declines in diversity of native grassland vertebrates of this region. We compared species richness and species composition of non-volant mammals, reptiles and amphibians at 36 prairie dog towns and 36 paired sites in the Panhandle Region of Oklahoma during the summers and falls of 1997, 1998 and 1999. We detected 30 species of mammals, 18 species of reptiles and seven species of amphibians. Comparisons between communities at prairie dog towns and paired sites in the adjacent landscape...
We conducted a natural removal experiment, utilizing a local outbreak of sylvatic plague (Yersinia pestis) as the removal agent, to test the effects of removal of Gunnison's prairie dogs (Cynomys gunnisoni) on plant and nocturnal rodent assemblages in three grassland habitats (ponderosa, pinyon-juniper, and desert grasslands) in northern Arizona. We measured plant cover, rodent abundance, plant and rodent species richness, and plant and rodent composition at three treatment locations: active prairie dog colonies (n=15), inactive colonies (n=15), and control locations (n=15). Only the amount of plant cover differed significantly among treatments. As landscape level heterogeneity among habitat types increased, rodent...
Medium-sized kangaroo rats (Dipodomys spp. Gray) function as keystone species in the dynamics of desert bunchgrasses. We tested the hypothesis that kangaroo rat graminivory leads to reduced grass growth and inflorescence production, and that kangaroo rat grass consumption reflects their preferences for open microhabitats. We excluded kangaroo rats from grasses, and measured tiller loss, leaf and tiller growth and inflorescence production. We recorded the extent of tiller loss in grasses varying in tussock size or the extent of surrounding cover. Consumption of tillers by kangaroo rats was extensive, peaking in late summer. Grasses protected from kangaroo rat graminivory showed elevated leaf and tiller growth and...
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There is growing recognition among ecologists that ecosystem engineers play important roles in creating habitat for other species, but the comparative and combined effects of co-existing engineers are not well known. Here, we evaluated the separate and interactive effects of two burrowing rodents, Gunnison's prairie dogs (Cynomys gunnisoni) and banner-tailed kangaroo rats (Dipodomys spectabilis), on lizards in the Chihuahuan Desert grassland (USA). We found that the mounds and burrow systems of both rodent species provided important habitat for lizards, with lizard abundance being 2 to 4-fold higher on mounds than in adjacent areas without mounds. Kangaroo rat mounds supported greater numbers of lizards than prairie...


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