Skip to main content
ARS Home » Pacific West Area » Reno, Nevada » Great Basin Rangelands Research » Research » Publications at this Location » Publication #267130

Title: Rodents as agents of ecological change

item MCADOO, J. - University Of Nevada
item Longland, William - Bill

Submitted to: Society for Range Management Meeting Abstracts
Publication Type: Abstract Only
Publication Acceptance Date: 10/23/2010
Publication Date: 2/8/2011
Citation: McAdoo, J.K., Longland, W.S. 2011. Rodents as agents of ecological change [abstract]. Society for Range Management. 64:16. Billings, MT. February 5-10, 2011.

Interpretive Summary:

Technical Abstract: Rodents have the potential to exert a wide array of ecological pressures in any given ecosystem. The negative impacts to plant communities in general, especially cultivated crops, are typically cited as examples of rodent grazing pressure. Considerable research has been conducted on the negative impacts of prairie dogs, ground squirrels, and pocket gophers in particular. On the positive side, and often ignored, are the ecological benefits that rodents provide. Even the group of species described above can impact rangelands positively, by decreasing soil compaction and increasing soil aeration, fertility, and water-holding capacity. Rodents also transport mycorrhizae associated with range plants and therefore can potentially establish plant species and their mycorrhizae on denuded range sites. Many species of desert rodents disperse seeds, and their seed caches are a major source of plant recruitment. Unrecovered seeds left in shallow subsurface caches are in a favorable environment for germination and early seedling survival. For example, kangaroo rats are the key to the establishment of Indian ricegrass, a desirable perennial species. Research by the authors has shown that caching by rodents favors germination of this native grass and that emergence of seedlings from rodent caches is the primary means of ricegrass stand renewal.