Invasive Species Compendium

Detailed coverage of invasive species threatening livelihoods and the environment worldwide

Abstract

Small-mammal assemblages in piggeries in a developing country: relationships with management practices and habitat complexity.

Abstract

Context. Pig production is increasing in developing countries and is increasing the coexistence of different production systems regarding management practices. Small mammals can cause major economic and sanitary problems on pig farms. The interactions among small mammals, production practices and habitat complexity have been sparsely studied. Aims. The aim was to compare small-mammal assemblages on extensive and intensive pig-production systems, and to analyse the relationship with environmental characteristics and management practices. Methods. Seasonal live-trapping of small mammals within 18 farms (under intensive or extensive management) was performed in central Argentina, simultaneously with a survey of environmental and management practices. Multiple regression analyses were performed to assess the relation between infestation levels and environmental characteristics. Key results. In total, 472 small mammals were captured, including the exotic murids Rattus norvegicus, R. rattus and Mus musculus, three native sigmodontines, namely, Akodon azarae, Oligoryzomys flavescens and Oxymycterus rufus, and two native marsupials, namely, Didelphis albiventris and Lutreolina crassicaudata. The location of waste deposits, the density of cats, the frequency of rodent control and the way pig food was stored influenced wild small-mammal abundance; exotic rodent species were lower when the density of cats increased. Rattus norvegicus was more abundant where rodent control was not frequent or null, contrary to M. musculus. Both species were more abundant in food and pig sheds, whereas native species were associated with vegetated areas outside of sheds. Also, A. azarae was associated with the density of pigs. Didelphis albiventris was more abundant on extensive farms, whereas L. crassicaudata was captured on intensive farms. Conclusions. Small-mammal abundance did not respond to the type of production system per se, but exotic species abundance was influenced by management decisions. The most important human behaviours related to exotic rodent infestation were the possession of cats, the frequency of rodent control and the way waste and pig feed were managed. Implications. Our findings highlighted the need for integrated studies on factors influencing the dynamics of rodent populations in commercial piggery systems, for the development of effective pest management. Management recommendations need to assess environmental complexity and human behaviour as important moderators of the population dynamics of small mammal species in and around piggeries.