Common vole (Microtus arvalis) ecology and management: implications for risk assessment of plant protection products



Common voles (Microtus arvalis) are common small mammals in some European landscapes. They can be a major rodent pest in European agriculture and they are also a representative generic focal small herbivorous mammal species used in risk assessment for plant protection products. In this paper, common vole population dynamics, habitat and food preferences, pest potential and use of the common vole as a model small wild mammal species in the risk assessment process are reviewed. Common voles are a component of agroecosystems in many parts of Europe, inhabiting agricultural areas (secondary habitats) when the carrying capacity of primary grassland habitats is exceeded. Colonisation of secondary habitats occurs during multiannual outbreaks, when population sizes can exceed 1000 individuals ha−1. In such cases, in-crop common vole population control management has been practised to avoid significant crop damage. The species' status as a crop pest, high fecundity, resilience to disturbance and intermittent colonisation of crop habitats are important characteristics that should be reflected in risk assessment. Based on the information provided in the scientific literature, it seems justified to modify elements of the current risk assessment scheme for plant protection products, including the use of realistic food intake rates, reduced assessment factors or the use of alternativee focal rodent species in particular European regions. Some of these adjustments are already being applied in some EU member states. Therefore, it seems reasonable consistently to apply such pragmatic and realistic approaches in risk assessments for plant protection products across the EU. © 2013 Society of Chemical Industry