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A reseach programme with Mexico. 25 mai 2012

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Monica Riojas-López of the Centro Universitario de Ciencias Biológicas y Agropecuarias of the University of Guadalajara and Eric Mellink from the Departamento de Biología de la Conservación du Centro de Investigación Científica y de Educación Superior de Ensenada, Mexico, have carried out a research programme aiming at understanding the role of anthropogenic habitats of Nopaleras in maintaining the biodiversity of nocturnal rodent species distributed across the landscape on the Mexican Central High Plateau.

The department of Chrono-environment is a partner of this study and provides support in the fields of sampling design, data mining and analyses and landscape ecology of small mammal assemblages.

The study is carried out on the Llanos de Ojuelos. This region, at the southern end of the Chihuahuan Desert, supports the southernmost North American grasslands, interspersed with different types of shrublands : leguminous trees, hopbush, oak and notably, nopal cactus (Opuntia spp.). The latter are composed of up to 12 different species of arborescent and shrubby forms of nopal and are one of the most peculiar shrub communities of North America, with a distribution that is restricted mostly to the Mexican Central High Plateau.
Since the mid-16th century, the region has been subject to ranching and farming, and currently, about 80% of the area is intensively grazed or under cultivation through semi-intensive and rain-fed systems.
As a result, natural habitats have been reduced to relatively small patches, and the soils, vegetation structure, animal species and the overall biodiversity have been affected at an unknown scale.

Monica Riojas-López and Eric Mellink have visited the department of Chrono-environment in November 2007 and started the field study in 2008. They spent a sabbatical year in Besançon from August 2008 to July 2009, which led to a first article in Diversity and distribution “Landscape partitioning by nocturnal rodent assemblages in the Llanos de Ojuelos, in Mexico’s Central High Plateau”.
The study is currently continued through a research programme 2012-2014 supported by the Mexican government “Las plantaciones de nopal tunero como un hábitat alternativo para la conservación de vertebrados terrestres”.
Beyond a work visit in May-June 2012, Monica Riojas-López and Eric Mellink will be invited professor of the University of Franche-Comté in 2013 and will stay in the department for 3 months.

Contact : Patrick Giraudoux

Mixed habitat of leguminous scrub, agaves and nopals
Arboreal wild nopals
Cultivated nopalera
Pastured grassland