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Open Access Open Badges Research article

Responses of five small mammal species to micro-scale variations in vegetation structure in secondary Atlantic Forest remnants, Brazil

Thomas Püttker1, Renata Pardini2, Yvonne Meyer-Lucht1 and Simone Sommer1*

Author affiliations

1 Leibniz-Institute for Zoo- and Wildlife Research, Alfred-Kowalke-Str. 17, D-10315 Berlin, Germany

2 Universidade de São Paulo, Instituto de Biociências, Rua do Matão, travessa 14, 101/Departamento de Zoologia, Cidade Universitária, 05508-900, Sao Paulo, Brasil

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Citation and License

BMC Ecology 2008, 8:9  doi:10.1186/1472-6785-8-9

Published: 5 May 2008



The Brazilian Atlantic Forest is highly endangered and only about 7% of the original forest remains, most of which consists of fragments of secondary forest. Small mammals in the Atlantic Forest have differential responses to this process of fragmentation and conversion of forest into anthropogenic habitats, and have varying abilities to occupy the surrounding altered habitats. We investigated the influence of vegetation structure on the micro-scale distribution of five small mammal species in six secondary forest remnants in a landscape of fragmented Atlantic Forest. We tested whether the occurrence of small mammal species is influenced by vegetation structure, aiming to ascertain whether species with different degrees of vulnerability to forest fragmentation (not vulnerable: A. montensis, O. nigripes and G. microtarsus; vulnerable: M. incanus and D. sublineatus; classification of vulnerability was based on the results of previous studies) are associated with distinct vegetation characteristics.


Although vegetation structure differed among fragments, micro-scale distribution of most of the species was influenced by vegetation structure in a similar way in different fragments. Among the three species that were previously shown not to be vulnerable to forest fragmentation, A. montensis and G. microtarsus were present at locations with an open canopy and the occurrence of O. nigripes was associated to a low canopy and a dense understory. On the other hand, from the two species that were shown to be vulnerable to fragmentation, M. incanus was captured most often at locations with a closed canopy while the distribution of D. sublineatus was not clearly influenced by micro-scale variation in vegetation structure.


Results indicate the importance of micro-scale variation in vegetation structure for the distribution of small mammal species in secondary forest fragments. Species that are not vulnerable to fragmentation occurred at locations with vegetation characteristics of more disturbed forest, while one of the species vulnerable to fragmentation was found at locations with older forest characteristics. Results suggest that micro-habitat preferences may be an important factor influencing the capacity of small mammals to occupy altered habitats and, consequently, their vulnerability to forest fragmentation at a larger spatial scale.