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The Impact of Climatic Extremes on Cotton Rat (Sigmodon hispidus) Populations
Albert K. Langley, Jr. and Donald J. Shure
The American Midland Naturalist
Vol. 120, No. 1 (Jul., 1988), pp. 136-143
Published by: The University of Notre Dame
Stable URL: http://www.jstor.org/stable/2425893
Page Count: 8
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The impact of weather extremes was examined for cotton rat (Sigmodon hispidus) populations occupying an Andropogon-dominated old field and a fescue (Festuca spp.) pasture on the Piedmont of Georgia. Cotton rat abundance was greatly reduced in spring 1977 relative to the springs of 1975 and 1976. Record winter cold followed by prolonged drought in spring and summer 1977 was associated with reduced Sigmodon reproduction and an absence of the normal autumn population buildups. The old-field Sigmodon population remained depressed through March 1979, whereas the pasture population became locally extinct after September 1977. Weather-induced habitat modification also occurred in conjunction with the Sigmodon collapses. The old field experienced some Andropogon mortality and a "retrogressive" shift to an earlier successional stage as Solidago, Lespedeza and several other species became established in 1977. Vegetation cover in the old field became patchy as these plant species colonized the area. In contrast, plant species composition remained unchanged in the pasture despite the weather conditions. The reduction in cotton rat abundance in the pasture was associated with a sharp decline in vegetation biomass and cover through 1978.
The American Midland Naturalist © 1988 The University of Notre Dame