Old Mature Hazel May
The natural nest sites in hedgerows of the hazel dormouse Muscardinus avellanarius were investigated in Devon, in south-west England. A total of 73 nests were found in the autumn by careful searching of hedgerows, all of which were species-rich. In hedgerows that had not been cut for 6 years or more, most nests were in bramble Rubus fruticosus agg. and field rose Rosa arvensis margins, with a few in holly Ilex aquifolium bushes. In contrast, in hedgerows that had been cut within 6 years, the majority of nests were in shrubs, the dense protective growth at the cut line being strongly favoured. Blackthorn Prunus spinosa was preferentially selected, hazel Corylus avellana was avoided. It is suggested that the availability of safe nest sites may limit population density and that where nesting conditions are good the hazel dormouse may prefer to build nests in unenclosed situations rather than in hollows, whether natural hollows, such as tree holes, or artificial ones, such as nest boxes. To encourage hazel dormice in hedgerows, bramble and rose margins should be allowed to develop, and some lengths of hedgerow should be cut occasionally, particularly where blackthorn is present.
old mature hazel may
Vegetation parameters determining nest site selection by the hazel dormouse Muscardinus avellanarius were studied in a typical habitat where dormice are relatively common in Lithuania, the northern periphery of its distributional range.
Dormice preferred nest sites with a better-developed understory, particularly with a good cover of hazel shrubs taller than 4 m and plentiful bird cherry trees, a high diversity of woody plant species in the understory and overstory, and better connectivity of the nest tree with its surroundings. They avoided sites with a high number of mature Norway spruce trees in the canopy and a high density of young trees. In a stepwise multiple regression analysis, three vegetation parameters of the number of shrub species, the cover of hazel shrubs, and the number of Norway spruce trees in the canopy determined over 85% of the index of nestbox use by M. avellanarius. The number of shrub species in the surroundings of the nest site had the highest impact of all. Nest sites used by dormice for breeding were distinguished by a better-developed understory, particularly by a significantly higher number of bird cherry trees and a lower number of Norway spruce trees in the canopy, as well as a higher diversity of plants in the understory and overstory.
M. avellanarius has been the subject of many studies carried out in different parts of its distributional range (reviewed in Juškaitis2008), including investigations into habitat and nest site selection. General habitat preferences of M. avellanarius were studied in several countries, e.g., in Great Britain, Italy, Lithuania, and Germany (Bright and Morris1990; Capizzi et al.2002; Juškaitis2007b; Wuttke et al.2012). Nest site selection by this species was studied in two different landscapes in southern Sweden (Berg and Berg1998), in two habitat types in central Italy (Panchetti et al.2007), and in a specific hedgerow habitat by (Wolton2009). This was also done in mature 75- to 180-year-old mixed forest stands in Lithuania, which are typical habitats for the fat dormouse Glis glis, but not for M. avellanarius (Juškaitis and Šiožinytė2008).
The correlation analysis between indices of nestbox use and vegetation parameters yielded a list of variables significantly related to nestbox use by M. avellanarius (Table 1). Several understory species, hazel, bird cherry, European spindle, young black alder, and young Wych elm trees, were positively correlated with the indices of nestbox use. Use of nestboxes by M. avellanarius was also positively correlated with higher diversities of plant species in the understory and overstory, as well as with better connectivity of nestbox trees with surrounding trees and shrubs. A significant negative correlation was found between indices of nestbox use by M. avellanarius and the number of Norway spruce trees in the canopy and the density of young trees in the vicinity of nestboxes (Table 1).
where Y is the index of nestbox use, X1 is the number of shrub species, X2 is the cover of hazel shrubs taller than 4 m, and X3 is the number of Norway spruce trees in the canopy.
Comparison of some vegetation parameters in different nest site categories of Muscardinus avellanarius . (A) Cover of hazel shrubs taller than 4 m, (B) number of bird cherry trees, (C) number of young birch trees, (D) density of young trees, (E) connectivity of the nestbox tree with its surroundings, (F) number of woody plant species in the understory. 1, nest site avoided for resting; 2, nest site occasionally used for resting; 3, nest site preferred for resting; 4, nest site used for breeding once; 5, nest site preferred for breeding. *The number of trees and shrubs which had a crown or a trunk connected to the crown of the nestbox tree.
In the stepwise multiple regression analysis, three vegetation parameters, namely the number of shrub species, the cover of hazel shrubs, and the number of Norway spruce trees in the canopy, determined over 85% of the index of nestbox use by M. avellanarius. The number of shrub species in the vicinity of the nest site had the highest impact among these. Hazel (especially hazel shrubs taller than 4 m) and bird cherry were the most important understory species for M. avellanarius. Typically, hazel shrubs have several stems, which grow apart from each other and form a large distaff-shaped shrub. Every stem has several diagonal or nearly horizontal branches which are in contact with branches of other hazel shrubs or other trees. In this way, inter-communicating hazel shrubs form excellent routes for the movement of M. avellanarius in a three-dimensional space. Branchy bird cherry trees can also be used by M. avellanarius in the same way.
M. avellanarius avoids nest sites with high numbers of Norway spruce trees in the canopy because the understory is shaded, and both the density and diversity of the understory are significantly reduced in such places. Similar results on nest site selection by M. avellanarius were also obtained in a mature 75- to 180-year-old mixed forest where M. avellanarius preferred forest stands with a well-developed understory and avoided nest sites with a high number of coniferous trees forming the canopy (Juškaitis and Šiožinytė2008).
The forest understory consists of shrubs and young trees, but the importance of these two groups is discrepant for M. avellanarius. Dormice avoided nest sites with the highest density of young trees. Young deciduous trees (e.g., lime or ash trees) grow vertically with few diagonal branches and are much less suitable for movement of M. avellanarius in a three-dimensional space compared to hazel shrubs and bird cherry trees. Although the index of nestbox use was positively related to the number of young black alder trees, the last parameter was positively inter-correlated with the total cover of hazel shrubs.
Except with hazel, no statistically significant positive correlations were found between indices of nestbox use and numbers or cover of plants important as food to M. avellanarius, such as the willow, Norway spruce, pedunculate oak, raspberry, dwarf honeysuckle, or glossy buckthorn. The correlation with the number of Norway spruce trees in the canopy was significantly negative. However, selection of nest sites by M. avellanarius was related to the diversity of understory and overstory species in the vicinity of nestboxes, particularly with the number of shrub species. Because the main food sources and accordingly the food plants of M. avellanarius vary during the active season (Juškaitis and Baltrūnaitė2013), the diversity of understory and overstory species is related to the continuity of the food supply in areas with diverse woody plant communities.
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Researchers said current climate models expect forests to continue to act as a carbon sink through this century, with high temperatures and concentrations of CO2 thought to stimulate tree growth and so help them absorb more carbon as they mature quicker. 041b061a72