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Keywords:

  • Africa;
  • birds of prey;
  • dispersion;
  • irregular population dynamics;
  • pest rodents;
  • predators

Summary

  • 1
     We investigate the effects of different levels of predation pressure and rodent dispersal on the population dynamics of the African pest rodent Mastomys natalensis in maize fields in Tanzania.
  • 2
     Three levels of predation risk were used in an experimental set-up: natural level (control), excluding predators by nets and attracting avian predators by nest boxes and perch poles. Because dispersal of the rodents could mask the predation pressure treatment effects, control and predator exclusion treatments were repeated with enclosed rodent populations.
  • 3
     Population growth during the annual population rise period was faster in the absence of predators and peak population size was higher, but otherwise dynamics patterns were similar for populations where predators had access or were attracted, indicating that compensatory mechanisms operate when rodents are exposed to high levels of predation risk. Reducing dispersal of rodents removed the effect of predation on population growth and peak size, suggesting that local predators may play a role in driving rodent dispersal, but have otherwise little direct effect on population dynamics.