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Ecological Applications





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Studies on the effects of anthropogenic contamination on wildlife have largely been focused at the individual level. Biomarkers have been used to monitor changes in the health of individuals exposed to contaminants; however, little attention has been given to the effects of chronic exposure at the population or community levels. We studied rodent assemblages from uncontaminated (reference) sites (n 5 5) and abandoned petrochemical landfarms (n 5 5) in Oklahoma to investigate potential alterations in community structure and composition. Rodent assemblages inhabiting landfarms had lower species diversity, lower richness, and a more even distribution of individuals across species. Reference sites showed typical rodent assemblage structure dominated by hispid cotton rats (Sigmodon hispidus) and fulvous harvest mice (Reithrodontomys fulvescens). Assemblages inhabiting landfarms also were dominated by cotton rats; however, harvest mice were replaced by deer mice (Peromyscus maniculatus) on two landfarms. Contaminated sites also were characterized by an increase in house mice (Mus musculus) and an absence of voles (Microtus spp.). Although landfarms tended to have lower cotton rat densities, we could not separate the effects of contamination from increased bare ground associated with landfarms. The results of this study suggest that rodent assemblages were different on landfarms, when compared with reference sites. However, no direct link between site contamination and rodent community structure could be established.


© 2004 by the Ecological Society of America

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