Responses of small mammals to land restoration after mining.
Context: Land degradation from mining influences biodiversity and ecosystem functioning. However, comparative studies using small mammal functional groups within rehabilitated mining sites are missing, despite their significant ecological contributions. Objectives: We investigated the recovery of small mammals according to their trophic guild and terrestriality in restored mining sites and analyzed whether they were influenced by restoration scheme (active or passive), restoration time, mineral type, body mass and invasive species. We were especially interested in whether functional groups showed different recovery patterns across time. Methods: We classified small mammals into functional groups according to trophic levels distinguishing carnivores, herbivores and omnivores, and according to their terrestriality categorized as above ground-dwelling (AGD) and fossorial and/or ground-dwelling individuals (FGD). We studied small mammal recovery globally following restoration of mining sites based on a meta-analysis using effect sizes. Influences of environmental variables were investigated with linear mixed models using effect sizes as response variable. Results: We did not find significant differences for restoration scheme and time but we did for mineral type, body mass and invasive species in terms of population (abundance) recovery. Trajectories of functional group recoveries differed: FGD and herbivores quickly recovered after mining activities stopped, but declined later, whereas AGD, carnivores and omnivores recovered within the first few years or decades. Conclusions: Our results highlight the different vulnerability of functional groups, and the importance of considering this in conservation interventions.