Great Basin Naturalist


Burrows of small mammals can impact a variety of soil processes including organic turnover, aeration, and mineralization rates. The structure of burrows, depth, length, and complexity can influence the extent of the impact burrows have on soil processes. Soil properties, in turn, are thought to affect burrow structure. To increase our understanding of burrow-soil dynamics, we compared maximum depth, total volume, total length, volume:length ratio, and complexity of burrows of five small mammal species with bulk density of soil texture in multiple regression analyses. Burrows of Wyoming ground squirrels (Spermophilus elegans) were deeper, longer, and more complex as percentage of silt and clay increased and percentage of sand and bulk density decreased. Average maximum depth of montane vole (Microtus montanus) burrows increased as soils became sandier. Length and volume of deer mice (Peromyscus maniculatus) burrows increased with increases in bulk density and percentage of clay. Volume, length, and complexity of kangaroo rat (Dipodomys ordii) burrows were greater in soils with higher amounts of clay and silt. Townsend's ground squirrel (Spermophilus townsendii) burrows did not appear to be affected by the soil properties measured.