We compared small-mammal communities between inactive floodplain and actively flooded terraces of riparian habitat in the Verde Valley of central Arizona. We used species diversity, abundance, weight of adult males, number of juveniles, number of reproductively active individuals, longevity, residency status, and patterns of microhabitat use to compare the two communities. Although abundances of small mammals tended to be higher in the active floodplain, species diversity was greater in the inactive floodplain. Results were inconsistent with our initial prediction that actively flooded riparian habitat acts as a species source, whereas inactive floodplain acts as a sink or dispersal site for small mammals. Within each habitat type, we found evidence of significant microhabitat separation among the three most abundant small-mammal species (Peromyscus boylii, P. eremicus, and Neotoma albigula). Percent cover by annual and perennial grasses and shrubs, substrate, and frequency of shrubs, trees, and debris were significant determinants of small-mammal distribution within a habitat type. We found that the three most abundant species selected a nonrandom subset of available habitat. Nonrandom use of habitat and microhabitat separation were the two most important mechanisms structuring small-mammal communities in riparian habitat of central Arizona.
Additional publication details
A comparison of small-mammal communities in a desert riparian floodplain