• dispersal;
  • habitat preference;
  • linear habitat;
  • Microtus oeconomus

1. Ditches are often connected to root vole habitat patches (i.e. moist reed patches) in the Netherlands. Due to the linear structure of ditches and because ditch habitat is qualitatively similar to root vole habitat patches, we hypothesized that ditches could function as habitat corridors facilitating dispersal movement of root voles. In order to test this hypothesis, we radiotracked root voles released in a landscape novel to them, consisting of ditches and agricultural meadows.

2. Agricultural meadows often surround the marsh patches inhabited by root voles. As the meadows are mowed regularly, we included the length of the meadow vegetation as an experimental factor in the study.

3. Assuming that ditches function as habitat corridors, we expected root voles in the ditches to move faster and more unidirectionally than root voles in the meadows, and to prefer the ditches to meadows.

4. We found that the ditches did not facilitate faster movements than the meadows. Although the root voles moved back and forth within the ditches, they showed a more directional movement pattern than the root voles in the meadows. Furthermore, the root voles preferred the ditch habitat irrespective of the vegetative cover in the meadow.

5. We conclude that ditches could function as habitat corridors for root voles, as they preferred to move in ditches when in unfamiliar areas.