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Title: Influence of elevation and forest type on community assemblage and species distribution of shrews in the central and southern Appalachian Mountains
Author: Ford, W. Mark; McCay, Timothy S.; Menzel, Michael A.; Webster, W. David; Greenberg, Cathryn H.; Pagels, John F.; Merritt, Joseph F.
Publication: In: Merritt, J. F.; Churchfield, S.; Hutterner, R.; Sheftel, B. I., eds. Advances in Biology of Shrews: International Society of Shrew Biologists. Carnegie Museum of Natutral History: Pittsburgh, PA: 303-315
Abstract: We analyzed shrew community data from 398,832 pitfall trapnights at 303 sites across the upper Piedmont, Blue Ridge, northern Ridge and Valley, southern Ridge and Valley, Cumberland Plateau and Allegheny Mountains and Plateau sections of the central and southern Appalachian Mountains from Alabama to Pennsylvania. The objectives of our research were to describe regional species distributions and to identify macro-environmental factors important to shrews at both the community and individual species scales. Our study documented the presence of nine species with a low of three in the southern Ridge and Valley section to a high of eight in the Blue Ridge section where the Appalachian, Austral and Boreomontane fauna elements converge. Region-wide, shrew species richness was related to increasing elevation and was higher in mesic forest types than in xeric types. Conformity to expected distribution of shrew bodysize (small, medium and large) appropriate for the central and southern Appalachian species pool showed no relationship to elevation gradients. However, xeric forest types conformed to a balanced assemblage of size classes less than expected. Among individual species, presence of masked shrew (Sorex cinereus) and smoky shrew (Sorex fumeus) was associated strongly with increasing elevation and mesic forests, whereas presence of southeastern shrew (Sorex longirostris) and southern short-tailed shrew (Blarina carolinensis) showed an opposite trend with elevation and forest type. The strong relationships we documented between presence of these four species with elevation and forest type facilitated reliable predictive habitat modeling. Conversely, the presence of pygmy shrew (Sorex hoyi) and northern short-tailed shrew (BLarina brevicauda) was not linked to forest type and only weakly linked to increasing elevation. Our analyses failed to produce meaningful relationshps about extreme habitat specialists documented by our survey, the rock shrew (Sorex dispar) associated with colluvial talus, the water shrew (Sorex palustris) associated with high-gradient streams, and the least shrew (Cryptotis parva) associated with oldfields and early sucessional habitats.
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