SYMP 20-5 - Ecological roles of burrowing mammals in grasslands around the world

Thursday, August 10, 2017: 3:40 PM
Portland Blrm 252, Oregon Convention Center
Ana D. Davidson, Colorado Natural Heritage Program, Colorado State University, Ft. Collins, CO

The world’s grasslands are shaped in part by a key functional group of burrowing, herbivorous mammals. Examples include prairie dogs (Cynomys spp.) of North America (NA), ground squirrels (Sciuridae spp.) of NA, Eurasia, and Africa, and marmots (Marmota spp.) of NA and Eurasia, plains vizcachas (Lagostomus maximus), Patagonian maras (Dolichotis patagonum) and degus (Octodon degus) of South America, pikas (Ochotona spp.) of Asia, ice rats (Otomys sloggetti) and springhares (Pedetes capensis) of Africa, and burrowing bettongs (Bettongia lesueur) and southern hairy-nosed wombats (Lasiorhinus latifrons) of Australia. Here, I will illustrate the important and often under-recognized ecological roles of these burrowing mammals.


Through herbivory and ecosystem engineering they create unique and important habitat for many species, thereby increasing biodiversity and habitat heterogeneity across the landscape. They also help maintain the presence of grasslands and are key prey for many species. Yet, burrowing mammals are facing myriad threats, which have resulted in dramatic declines in populations of the best-studied species and cascading declines in dependent species and grassland habitat.