Use of large Acacia trees by the cavity dwelling Black-tailed tree rat in the Southern Kalahari

Eccard, J. A.; Dean, W. R. J.; Wichmann, M. C.; Huttunen, S. M.; Eskelinen, E.; Moloney, K. A.; Jeltsch, F.. 2006 Use of large Acacia trees by the cavity dwelling Black-tailed tree rat in the Southern Kalahari. Journal of Arid Environments, 64 (4). 604-615.

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Recent extensive harvesting of large, often dead Acacia trees in arid savanna of southern Africa is cause for concern about the conservation status of the arid savanna and its animal community. We mapped vegetation and nests of the Black-tailed Tree Rat Thallomys nigricauda to assess the extent to which the rats depend on particular tree species and on the existence of dead, standing trees. The study was conducted in continuous Acacia woodland on the southern and eastern edge of the Kalahari, South Africa. Trees in which there were tree rat nests were compared with trees of similar size and vigour to identify the characteristics of nest sites. Spatial analysis of tree rat distribution was conducted using Ripley's-L function. We found that T. nigricauda was able to utilize all available tree species, as long as trees were large and old enough so that cavities were existing inside the stem. The spatial distribution of nest trees did not show clumping at the investigated scale, and we therefore reject the notion of the rats forming colonies when inhabiting continuous woodlands. The selection of a particular tree as a nest site was furthermore depending on the close proximity of the major food plant, Acacia mellifera. This may limit the choice of suitable nest sites, since A. mellifera was less likely to grow within a vegetation patch containing a large trees than in patches without large trees.

Item Type: Publication - Article
Digital Object Identifier (DOI):
Programmes: CEH Programmes pre-2009 publications > Biodiversity
UKCEH and CEH Sections/Science Areas: _ Population & Conservation Ecology
ISSN: 0140-1963
Additional Keywords: Thallomys nigricauda, nest sites, Acacia erioloba, Acacia mellifera, Boscia albitrunca, spatial distribution pattern, Kalahari Savanna Thornveld
NORA Subject Terms: Agriculture and Soil Science
Ecology and Environment
Date made live: 19 May 2008 14:04 +0 (UTC)

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