Species richness relative abundances and habitat use in local assemblages of Sorex shrews in Eurasian boreal forests
Using a large body of observational data on the occurrence of Sorex shrews in boreal forests, we test two models that predict the structure of small mammal communities along a gradient of increasing habitat productivity. Tilman's (1982) model predicts a humped curve of species richness along productivity gradients. In contrast, we found a linear increase in species richness with increasing logarithm of the pooled density of shrews, which we use as a measure of habitat productivity for shrews. The model of Hanski and Kaikusalo (1989) assumes a trade-off between exploitative and interference competitive abilities, and it predicts that the size structure of small mammal communities should shift from the dominance of small species (superior in exploitative competition) in unproductive habitats to the dominance of large species (superior in interference competition) in productive habitats. Shrew assemblages show such a shift. Though it is not possible to draw definite conclusions about the role of interspecific competition from our observational data, the changing size structure of local shrew assemblages with increasing habitat productivity is a predictable feature of their community structure.
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