Drylands occupy almost 50% of the Earth's surface and are increasingly affected by extensive land uses such as grazing. These practices affect multiple biotic and abiotic interactions mainly through loss of habitat and resources available for native wildlife. We examined the effects of local vegetation conditions on resource selection by a small mammal species in drylands with different resource availability. The study was conducted in a semi-arid woodland that included an area protected from livestock grazing and human settlement for more than 50 years, the Man and the Biosphere Ñacunán Reserve, and an adjoining area that has experienced long-term cattle grazing. We tracked radio-collared individuals of Graomys griseoflavus, the most abundant small mammal in the Ñacunán region, and calculated resource selection functions (RSFs) to evaluate habitat selection. We modeled resource selection using a suite of habitat variables measured in both areas. We hypothesized that long-term changes in vegetation associated with livestock grazing would substantially influence habitat selection. G. griseoflavus selected vegetation patches with relatively greater cover of forage species (i.e., taxa commonly consumed) and avoided open spaces; they also selected sites with greater species richness and cover of grasses and trees. Although resource selection patterns were generally similar under both management conditions (i.e., under passive restoration and grazing), the strength of selection was greater in the grazed area. The final RSF model validated well with k-fold cross-validation (R2 = 0.61). Because of the importance of rodents in ecosystem function, management to meet their resource requirements could be an important tool for habitat restoration in degraded drylands.
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Vol. 98 • No. 6