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Potential Role of Masting by Introduced Bamboos in Deer Mice (Peromyscus maniculatus) Population Irruptions Holds Public Health Consequences

Articles

Journal/Conference:

PLOS ONE

Language:

English

Author:

Gomulkiewicz Richard; Mack Richard N.

Experts:

Smith Melissa C.

Year:

2015

Volume:

10

Issue:

4

Pages:

1-17

We hypothesized that the ongoing naturalization of frost/shade tolerant Asian bamboos in North America could cause environmental consequences involving introduced bamboos, native rodents and ultimately humans. More specifically, we asked whether the eventual masting by an abundant leptomorphic (“running”) bamboo within Pacific Northwest coniferous forests could produce a temporary surfeit of food capable of driving a population irruption of a common native seed predator, the deer mouse (Peromyscus maniculatus), a hantavirus carrier. Single-choice and cafeteria-style feeding trials were conducted for deer mice with seeds of two bamboo species (Bambusa distegia and Yushania brevipaniculata), wheat, Pinus ponderosa, and native mixed diets compared to rodent laboratory feed. Adult deer mice consumed bamboo seeds as readily as they consumed native seeds. In the cafeteria-style feeding trials, Y. brevipaniculata seeds were consumed at the same rate as native seeds but more frequently than wheat seeds or rodent laboratory feed. Females produced a median litter of 4 pups on a bamboo diet. Given the ability of deer mice to reproduce frequently whenever food is abundant, we employed our feeding trial results in a modified Rosenzweig-MacArthur consumer-resource model to project the population-level response of deer mice to a suddenly available/rapidly depleted supply of bamboo seeds. The simulations predict rodent population irruptions and declines similar to reported cycles involving Asian and South American rodents but unprecedented in deer mice. Following depletion of a mast seed supply, the incidence of Sin Nombre Virus (SNV) transmission to humans could subsequently rise with dispersal of the peridomestic deer mice into nearby human settlements seeking food.