Distinct isotopic signatures reveal effect of ecoregion on small mammals of Ghana

Nyeema C Harris, Reuben A Garshong & Morgan Gray

Species reside in dynamic environments, simultaneously experiencing variations in climatic conditions, habitat availability and quality, interspecific interactions, and anthropogenic pressures. We investigated variation in foraging ecology of the small mammal community between land-use classifications (i.e., protected national parks and unprotected lands abutting them) in Mole National Park (MNP) and Digya National Park (DNP), representing distinct ecoregions of Ghana. In 5,064 trap nights, we sampled 153 individuals of 23 species within the 2 national parks and adjacent lands outside protected boundaries to describe variation in community composition. We also used δ13 C and δ15 N isotopic ratios from fresh feces to determine main effects and interactions between land use and ecoregion on trophic structure in species and communities of small mammals. Small mammals exhibited distinct community assemblages between ecoregions (i.e., national parks): Gerbilliscus guineaeHybomys trivirgatusMalacomys edwardsiLemniscomys bellieriL. zebra, and Taterillus gracilis were only captured in the dry savanna ecoregion of MNP. Additionally, isotopic signatures for nitrogen were significantly lower in MNP (2.83 ± 0.17‰) compared to DNP (4.97 ± 0.33‰), indicating that small mammals occupied different trophic levels between ecoregions. The most common species, Praomys daltoni exhibited variation in isotopic signatures between ecoregions and land use, with higher δ15 N found within MNP boundaries. We found no distinction in δ13 C at the community or species level within or across protected areas. Ultimately, understanding shifts in the ecology of species can inform predictions about community structure and ecosystem function under future environmental and anthropogenic scenarios.

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Nyeema C Harris, Reuben A Garshong & Morgan Gray. 2018. Distinct isotopic signatures reveal effect of ecoregion on small mammals of Ghana. Journal of Mammalogy 99(1):117-123.