Small mammals on lowland farmland

Increasingly intensive agricultural management since the 1940s has corresponded with a severe decline in the cropped and semi-natural habitats used by small mammals on farmland. There have also been changes in habitat quality, including declines in invertebrate and plant foods, but it is not clear how these have impacted on populations. We have conducted extensive research exploring ways of managing farmland to benefit small mammals. Linear features such as hedgerows and field margins are widely used by a range of small mammal species and our work has explored ways of how best to manage these habitats for small mammals. Cropped areas can also be managed in different ways to increase food and cover, impacting both behaviour and abundance of wood mice. The extent, age, mowing regime, and composition of semi-natural agricultural grasslands also affect small mammal communities. Although a lack of long-term monitoring hampers our understanding of small mammal population trends on farmland, our research suggests a range of ways in which to encourage their abundance and diversity.

David W. Macdonald
Lauren A. Harrington
Merryl Gelling
Fran H. Tattersall
Tom Tew
Ruth E. Feber


Macdonald, D.W., Harrington, L.A., Gelling, M., Tattersall, F.H., Tew, T. 2015. Small mammals on lowland farmland. In: Wildlife Conservation on Farmland. Eds: D.W. Macdonald & R.E. Feber. Oxford University Press.

Brandt, R. and D. W. Macdonald. 2011. To know him is to love him? Familiarity and female preference in the harvest mouse, Micromys minutus. Animal Behaviour 82:353-358.

Buesching, C., C. Newman, J. T. Jones, and D. W. Macdonald. 2011. Testing the effects of deer grazing on two woodland rodents, bank voles and woodmice. Basic and Applied Ecology 12:207-214.

Butler, S., Brooks, D., Feber, R.E.,  Storkey, J., Vickery, J. & Norris, K. (2009)  A sustainability index for quantifying the health of farmland biodiversity.  Journal of Applied Ecology, 46, 1154-1162.

Gelling, M., D. W. Macdonald, and F. Mathews. 2007. Are hedgerows the route to increased biodiversity? Small mammals’ use of hedgerows in British pastoral habitats. Landscape Ecology 22:1019-1032.

Macdonald, D.W., Tattersall, F.H., Service, K.M., Firbank, L.G. and Feber, R.E. (2007) Mammals, agri-environment schemes and set-aside – what are the putative benefits? Mammal Review, 37, 259-277.

Tattersall, F. H., D. W. Macdonald, B. J. Hart, and W. J. Manley. 2004. Balanced dispersal or source-sink – do both models describe wood mice in farmed landscapes? Oikos 106:536-550.

Macdonald, D. W., T. E. Tew, and I. A. Todd. 2004. The ecology of weasels (Mustela nivalis) on mixed farmland in southern England. Biologia 59:233-239.

Stopka, P. and D. W. Macdonald. 2003. Way-marking behaviour: an aid to spatial navigation in the wood mouse (Apodemus sylvaticus). BMC Ecology 3.

Tattersall, F. H. and D. W. Macdonald. 2003. Wood mice in the arable ecosystem. Pages 82-96 in F. H. Tattersall and W. J. Manley, editors. Conservation and Conflict: Mammals and Farming in Britain. Linnean Society Occasional Publication, Westbury Publishing, Yorkshire.

Tattersall, F. H., D. W. Macdonald, B. J. Hart, P. J. Johnson, W. J. Manley, and R. Feber. 2002. Is habitat linearity important for small mammal communities on farmland? Journal of Applied Ecology 39:643-652.

Tattersall, F. H., D. W. Macdonald, B. J. Hart, W. J. Manley, and R. E. Feber. 2001. Habitat use by wood mice (Apodemus sylvaticus) in a changeable arable landscape. Journal of Zoology 255:487-494.

Tattersall, F. H., A. E. Avundo, W. J. Manley, B. J. Hart, and D. W. Macdonald. 2000. Managing set-aside for field voles (Microtus agrestis). Biological Conservation 96:123-128.

Tew, T. E., I. A. Todd, and D. W. Macdonald. 2000. Arable habitat use by wood mice (Apodemus sylvaticus). 2. Microhabitat. Journal of Zoology 250:305-311.

Todd, I. A., T. E. Tew, and D. W. Macdonald. 2000. Arable habitat use by wood mice (Apodemus sylvaticus). 1. Macrohabitat. Journal of Zoology 250:299-303.

Tattersall, F. H., B. J. Hart, W. J. Manley, D. W. Macdonald, and R. E. Feber. 1999. Small mammals on set-aside blocks and margins. Aspects of Applied Biology 54:131-138.

Tattersall, F. H., A. L. Fagiano, J. D. Bembridge, P. Edwards, D. W. Macdonald, and B. J. Hart. 1999. Does the method of set-aside establishment affect its use by wood mice? Journal of Zoology 249:472-476.

Tattersall, F. H., T. E. Tew, and D. W. Macdonald. 1998. Habitat selection by arable wood mice: a review of work carried out by the Wildlife Conservation Research Unit. Proceedings of the Latvian Academy of Sciences Section B 52:31-36.

Stopka, P. and D. W. Macdonald. 1998. Signal interchange during mating in the wood mouse (Apodemus sylvaticus): The concept of active and passive signalling. Behaviour 135:231-249.

Stockley, P. and D. W. Macdonald. 1998. Why do female common shrews produce so many offspring? Oikos 83:560-566.

Shore, R.F., Feber, R.E., Firbank, L.G., Fishwick, S.K., Macdonald, D.W. and Norum, U. 1997. The impacts of molluscicide pellets on spring and autumn populations of wood mice Apodemus sylvaticus. Agriculture, Ecosystems and Environment, 64: 211-217.

Stockley, P., J. B. Searle, D. W. Macdonald, and C. S. Jones. 1996. Correlates of reproductive success within alternative mating tactics of the common shrew. Behavioral Ecology 7:334-340.

Tew, T. E. and D. W. Macdonald. 1994. Dynamics of space use and male vigour amongst wood mice, Apodemus sylvaticus, in the cereal ecosystem. Behavioral Ecology and Sociobiology 34:337-345.

Tew, T. E., I. A. Todd, and D. W. Macdonald. 1994. Field margins and small mammals. BCPC Monographs BCPC Monograph 58 Field margins – integrating agriculture & conservation:85-94.

Stockley, P., J. B. Searle, D. W. Macdonald, and C. S. Jones. 1994. Alternative reproductive tactics in male common shrews: relationships between mate-searching behaviour, sperm production, and reproductive success as revealed by DNA fingerprinting. Behavioral Ecology and Sociobiology 34:71-78.

Brown, E. D., D. W. Macdonald, T. E. Tew, and I. A. Todd. 1994. Rhythmicity of Egg-Production by Heligmosomoides polygyrus in Wild Wood Mice, Apodemus sylvaticus. Journal of Helminthology 68:105-108.

Brown, E. D., D. W. Macdonald, T. E. Tew, and I. A. Todd. 1994. Apodemus sylvaticus infected with Heligmosomoides polygyrus (Nematoda) in an arable ecosystem: Epidemiology and effects of infection on the movements of male mice. Journal of Zoology 234:623-640.

Plesner Jensen, S. 1993. Temporal changes in food preferences of wood mice, Apodemus sylvaticus L. Oecologia 94:76-82.

Tew, T. E. and D. W. Macdonald. 1993. The effects of harvest on arable wood mice, Apodemus sylvaticus. Biological Conservation 65:279-283.

Stockley, P., J. B. Searle, D. W. Macdonald, and C. S. Jones. 1993. Female multiple mating behaviour in the common shrew as a strategy to reduce inbreeding. Proceedings of the Royal Society of London Series B-Biological Sciences 254:173-179.

Tew, T. E., D. W. Macdonald, and M. R. W. Rands. 1992. Herbicide application affects microhabitat use by arable field mice (Apodemus sylvaticus). Journal of Applied Ecology 29:532-539.

  • © Chris Barber