A comparison of the rodent faunas in sandhill habitats from the northern Chihuahuan Desert in Texas
Brant, Joel G.
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During the latter years of the twentieth century, scientists and naturalists began placing increasing emphasis on the importance of the world’s rich diversity of species. In keeping with this trend, biologists have increased their efforts to learn as much about the biodiversity of every environment and have demonstrated that the results of these efforts are essential to understanding how diversity is maintained in each environment. The objective of this study is to characterize the rodent communities inhabiting sand dune habitats at two protected areas in the northern Chihuahuan Desert. The sand dunes at each locality were divided into three dune habitats (cover sands, vegetated dunes, and active dunes) based on substrate stability and vegetative cover. Sampling was conducted in each of these dune habitats from November 2000 to August 2003 (Monahans Sandhills State Park) and October 2003 to February 2004 (Guadalupe Mountains National Park). Twenty-nine species of mammals were recorded from Monahans Sandhills State Park (MSSP) with Dipodomys ordii being the most abundant species. The sand dunes at Guadalupe Mountains National Park (GMNP) yielded 23 mammalian species with the most abundant species being Dipodomys merriami. Rodent diversity was significantly higher in sand dune areas than in the surrounding cover sands at both parks. Active dunes from both parks had significantly more species and were more diverse than the cover sands habitats. The habitat heterogeneity hypothesis is the most likely mechanism that accounts for these results and the maintenance of this level of biodiversity in sand dune environments.