Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations

Rabbits, Mice And Prickly Shrubs Help Establish Natural Diversity

Date:
July 7, 2008
Source:
Netherlands Organization for Scientific Research
Summary:
Small mammals, such as rabbits and mice, play a major role in the development of natural diversity. Biologists researched how scrub becomes established in natural grassland. It seems that prickly shrubs are important in protecting plants and preventing animal species from grazing. Researchers have also demonstrated that natural disturbances such as flooding and animal diseases are very important for the diversity of natural areas.

Dutch Rubicon laureate Chris Smit has concluded that small mammals, such as rabbits and mice, play a major role in the development of natural diversity. Smit researched how scrub becomes established in natural grassland. It seems that prickly shrubs are important in protecting plants and preventing animal species from grazing.

Smit has also demonstrated that natural disturbances such as flooding and animal diseases are very important for the diversity of natural areas.

Smit investigated a large number of blackthorn seedlings between five and ten years old in the Junner Koeland, a 100 ha, species-rich natural area along the Overijsselse Vecht river, which has been grazed extensively for centuries. Young blackthorns have scarcely been spotted there over the past 30 years. These observations coincided with a considerable reduction in the rabbit population since the end of the 1990s, caused by the disease viral haemorrhagic septicaemia (VHS).

The establishment of scrub is an important process that leads to greater variation and diversity in a landscape. Prickly shrubs such as blackthorn and hawthorn provide a valuable safe haven for many plant and animal species. The thorns protect these plants and animals from grazing by large mammals.

Smit’s experiments show that blackthorn seeds under the scrub are quickly eaten by small mammals such as mice. Thorns provide no protection against this. However, Smit discovered that the young plants in the Junner Koeland frequently grew in recently flooded sections among high vegetation that was inedible for grazers.

Blackthorn seeds in the inedible vegetation have better chances of survival. Thus, large and small grazers together limit the spread of blackthorn, with the influence of the small grazers seeming to be the greater. Current nature management policies will need to take more account of the importance of small mammals and natural disturbances when it comes to the diversity of natural grasslands.

Natural diversity

Large grazers have now been introduced on a wide scale in Dutch natural areas. One of the main aims of this introduction is to promote greater natural diversity in the landscape. Greater diversity leads to more plant and animal species. This will please many people, from conservationists to tourists.

A young oak tree, for example, which represents a tasty meal for large grazers, is only safe from them within prickly shrubs. Ultimately, this leads to magnificent single oaks surrounded by a mantle of scrub.


Story Source:

The above story is based on materials provided by Netherlands Organization for Scientific Research. Note: Materials may be edited for content and length.


Cite This Page:

Netherlands Organization for Scientific Research. "Rabbits, Mice And Prickly Shrubs Help Establish Natural Diversity." ScienceDaily. ScienceDaily, 7 July 2008. <www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2008/07/080703113617.htm>.
Netherlands Organization for Scientific Research. (2008, July 7). Rabbits, Mice And Prickly Shrubs Help Establish Natural Diversity. ScienceDaily. Retrieved July 23, 2014 from www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2008/07/080703113617.htm
Netherlands Organization for Scientific Research. "Rabbits, Mice And Prickly Shrubs Help Establish Natural Diversity." ScienceDaily. www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2008/07/080703113617.htm (accessed July 23, 2014).

Share This




More Plants & Animals News

Wednesday, July 23, 2014

Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations


Featured Videos

from AP, Reuters, AFP, and other news services

Michigan Plant's Goal: Flower and Die

Michigan Plant's Goal: Flower and Die

AP (July 22, 2014) An 80-year-old agave plant, which is blooming for the first and only time at a University of Michigan conservatory, will die when it's done (July 22) Video provided by AP
Powered by NewsLook.com
San Diego Zoo Welcomes New, Rare Rhino Calf

San Diego Zoo Welcomes New, Rare Rhino Calf

Reuters - US Online Video (July 21, 2014) An endangered black rhino baby is the newest resident at the San Diego Zoo. Sasha Salama reports. Video provided by Reuters
Powered by NewsLook.com
Shark Sightings a Big Catch for Cape Tourism

Shark Sightings a Big Catch for Cape Tourism

AP (July 21, 2014) A rise in shark sightings along the shores of Chatham, Massachusetts is driving a surge of eager vacationers to the beach town looking to catch a glimpse of a great white. (July 21) Video provided by AP
Powered by NewsLook.com
$23.6 Billion Awarded To Widow In Smoking Lawsuit

$23.6 Billion Awarded To Widow In Smoking Lawsuit

Newsy (July 20, 2014) Cynthia Robinson claims R.J. Reynolds Tobacco Company hid the health and addiction risks of its products, leading to the death of her husband in 1996. Video provided by Newsy
Powered by NewsLook.com

Search ScienceDaily

Number of stories in archives: 140,361

Find with keyword(s):
Enter a keyword or phrase to search ScienceDaily for related topics and research stories.

Save/Print:
Share:

Breaking News:
from the past week

In Other News

... from NewsDaily.com

Science News

Health News

Environment News

Technology News



Save/Print:
Share:

Free Subscriptions


Get the latest science news with ScienceDaily's free email newsletters, updated daily and weekly. Or view hourly updated newsfeeds in your RSS reader:

Get Social & Mobile


Keep up to date with the latest news from ScienceDaily via social networks and mobile apps:

Have Feedback?


Tell us what you think of ScienceDaily -- we welcome both positive and negative comments. Have any problems using the site? Questions?
Mobile: iPhone Android Web
Follow: Facebook Twitter Google+
Subscribe: RSS Feeds Email Newsletters
Latest Headlines Health & Medicine Mind & Brain Space & Time Matter & Energy Computers & Math Plants & Animals Earth & Climate Fossils & Ruins