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Location: Soil Drainage Research

Title: Small mammal habitat use within restored riparian habitats adjacent to channelized streams in Mississippi

item Smiley, Peter - Rocky
item Cooper, Charles

Submitted to: Journal of Environmental Protection
Publication Type: Peer Reviewed Journal
Publication Acceptance Date: 9/16/2013
Publication Date: 11/29/2013
Publication URL:
Citation: Smiley, P.C., Cooper, C.M. 2013. Small mammal habitat use within restored riparian habitats adjacent to channelized streams in Mississippi. Journal of Environmental Protection. 4:1280-1291. DOI:10.4236/jep.2013.411149.

Interpretive Summary: Riparian corridors are important habitats for small mammals within agricultural watersheds. Expanding agriculture and stream channelization have reduced the habitat quality of riparian habitats within agricultural watersheds. In northwestern Mississippi, oversteepened and enlarged streambanks caused by channel incision frequently results in gully erosion that rapidly migrates through the riparian zone and into the agricultural field. Currently, installation of erosion control structures (drop pipes) at the riparian zone - agricultural field interface halts gully erosion and simultaneously establishes one of four riparian habitat types. The differences in small mammal habitat use among the four riparian habitat types are unknown and will provide information on the potential effects of this erosion control practice on small mammals. We sampled small mammals (i.e., mice, rats, shrews, voles) within four riparian habitat types created by drop pipe installation. Small mammal diversity and abundance were the greatest when drop pipe installation resulted in riparian habitats greater than 1000 square meters, greater than 21 percent coverage of woody vegetation greater than 1.8 meters tall, and mean pool volumes greater than 41 cubic meters. However, present drop pipe installation practices focus on erosion control without consideration of habitat creation. Our results suggest that altering the installation design to improve its effectiveness in creating riparian habitats will increase the ecological benefits resulting from this conservation practice.

Technical Abstract: Riparian zones of channelized agricultural streams in northwestern Mississippi typically consist of narrow vegetative corridors low in habitat diversity and lacking riparian wetlands. Land clearing practices and stream channelization has led to the development of gully erosion and further fragmentation of these degraded riparian zones. Currently, installation of a gully erosion control structure (drop pipe) at the riparian zone-agricultural field interface leads to the incidental establishment of four riparian habitat types that differ in habitat area, vegetative structure, and pool size. Small mammals were sampled within four sites of each habitat type from June 1994 to July 1995. Small mammal diversity, abundance, and hispid cotton rat (Sigmodon hispidus) weight were the least within smallest Type I habitats with the least vegetative structural diversity and the greatest within the larger Type II, III, or IV habitats having greater vegetative structural diversity and pool size. Modifying the drop pipe installation design to facilitate the development of larger riparian habitats with greater vegetative structural diversity will provide the greatest benefits for small mammals.