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Altered space use and movement distances of Merriam's kangaroo rat, Dipodomys merriami, in post-fire lands


Habitat fragmentation can alter many ecological processes, including animal movement and habitat-use patterns. Understanding how habitat fragmentation influences movement and habitat use is critical for predicting long-Term consequences of the negative impacts of disturbances. Fires in Joshua Tree National Park in the Mojave Desert were historically rare disturbances but have become increasingly common, generating novel patterns of habitat heterogeneity. We examined the effects of post-fire spatial complexity of burned lands on spring and daily movement distances of Merriam's kangaroo rat, Dipodomys merriami, in Joshua Tree National Park. Movement distances did not show a direct relationship with the amount of post-fire remnant vegetation; rather, we found that D. merriami increased spring movement distances within the patchily burned sites, which also showed the lowest small mammal abundances. However, in burned sites, D. merriami maintained larger territories than in the unburned site. The adaptability of D. merriami to fragmentation could be an asset for restoration via seed dispersal within burned sites in the Mojave Desert.

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