Living on the edge: Roads and edge effects on small mammal populations

Elisa Fuentes-Montemayor, Alfredo D. Cuarón, Ella Vázquez-Domínguez, Julieta Benítez-Malvido, David Valenzuela-Galván, Ellen Andresen

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

44 Citations (Scopus)


1. Roads may affect wildlife populations through habitat loss and disturbances, as they create an abrupt linear edge, increasing the proportion of edge exposed to a different habitat. Three types of edge effects have been recognized: abiotic, direct biotic, and indirect biotic. 2. We explored the direct biotic edge effects of 3- to 4-m wide roads, and also a previously unrecognized type of edge effect: social. We live-trapped two threatened endemic rodents from Cozumel Island (Oryzomys couesi cozumelae and Reithrodontomys spectabilis) in 16 plots delimited by roads on two sides, to compare edge effects between two adjacent edges (corners), single-edge and interior forest, on life history and social variables. 3. No significant edge effects were observed on the life-history variables, with the exception of differences in body condition between males and females of O. c. cozumelae near edges. Both species showed significant and contrasting effects on their social variables. 4. O. c. cozumelae was distributed according to its age and sex: the proportion of adults and males was higher in interior than near edges, while juveniles and females were more abundant near edges. More nonreproductive females were present in corners than in single-edge and interior, while the opposite distribution was observed for nonreproductive males. 5. The distribution of R. spectabilis was related to its age and reproductive condition, but not to its sex. The proportion of adults was significantly higher in corners, while juveniles were only caught in single-edge and interior quadrants. The proportion of reproductive individuals was higher in edge than interior quadrants, while reproductive females were only present in edge quadrants. 6. We found significant differences between the quadrants with the greatest edge exposure in comparison with other quadrants. The social edge effects we identified complement the typology of edge effects recognized in ecological literature. Our study provides insight into the effects that sharp road edges have on biological and social characteristics of small mammal populations, highlighting how such effects vary among species. Our findings have important conservation implications for these threatened species, but are also applicable in a broader context wherever there are abrupt edges caused by linear landscape features.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)857-865
Number of pages9
JournalJournal of Animal Ecology
Issue number4
Publication statusPrint publication - Jul 2009
Externally publishedYes


  • Habitat disturbance
  • Island
  • Linear landscape features
  • Muridae
  • Social effects


Dive into the research topics of 'Living on the edge: Roads and edge effects on small mammal populations'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

Cite this