Land use determinants of small mammals abundance and distribution in a plague endemic area of Lushoto District, Tanzania
Small mammals are considered to be involved in the transmission cycle of bubonic plague, still occurring in different parts of the world, including the Lushoto district in Tanzania. The objective of this study was to determine the relationship between land use types and practices and small mammal abundance and distribution. A field survey was used to collect data in three landscapes differing in plague incidences. Data collection was done both in the wet season (April-June 2012) and dry season (August-October 2012). Analysis of variance and Boosted Regression Trees (BRT) modelling technique were used to establish the relationship between land use and small mammal abundance and distribution. Significant variations (p ≤ 0.05) of small mammal abundance among land use types were identified. Plantation forest with farming, natural forest and fallow had higher populations of small mammals than the other aggregated land use types. The influence of individual land use types on small mammal abundance level showed that, in both dry and wet seasons, miraba and fallow tended to favour small mammals’ habitation whereas land tillage practices had the opposite effect. In addition, during the wet season crop types such as potato and maize appeared to positively influence the distribution and abundance of small mammals which was attributed to both shelter and food availability. Based on the findings from this study it is recommended that future efforts to predict and map spatial and temporal human plague infection risk at fine scale should consider the role played by land use and associated human activities on small mammal abundance and distribution.