• Both habitat change and local lek structure influence patterns of spatial loss and recovery in a black grouse population

      Geary, Matthew; Fielding, Alan H.; Marsden, Stuart J.; University of Chester; Manchester Metropolitan University (Springer, 2015-05-23)
      Land use change is a major driver of declines in wildlife populations. Where human economic or recreational interests and wildlife share landscapes this problem is exacerbated. Changes in UK black grouse Tetrao tetrix populations are thought to have been strongly influenced by upland land use change. In a long-studied population within Perthshire, lek persistence is positively correlated with lek size, and remaining leks clustered most strongly within the landscape when the population is lowest, suggesting that there may be a demographic and/or spatial context to the reaction of the population to habitat changes. Hierarchical cluster analysis of lek locations revealed that patterns of lek occupancy when the population was declining were different to those during the later recovery period. Response curves from lek-habitat models developed using MaxEnt for periods with a declining population, low population, and recovering population were consistent across years for most habitat measures. We found evidence linking lek persistence with habitat quality changes and more leks which appeared between 1994 and 2008 were in improving habitat than those which disappeared during the same period. Generalised additive models (GAMs) identified changes in woodland and starting lek size as being important indicators of lek survival between declining and low/recovery periods. There may also have been a role for local densities in explaining recovery since the population low point. Persistence of black grouse leks was influenced by habitat, but changes in this alone did not fully account for black grouse declines. Even when surrounded by good quality habitat, leks can be susceptible to extirpation due to isolation.
    • Marginal habitats provide unexpected survival benefits to the Alpine marmot

      Ferrari, Caterina; Zanet, Stefania; Rolando, Antonio; Bertolino, Sandro; Bassano, Bruno; von Hardenberg, Achaz; University of Turin; Alpine Wildlife Research Centre, Gran Paradiso National Park; University of Chester (Wiley, 2022-01-06)
      Age-specific survival trajectories can vary significantly among wild populations. Identifying the environmental conditions associated with such variability is of primary importance to understand the dynamics of free-ranging populations. In this study, we investigated survival variations among alpine marmot (Marmota marmota) families living in areas with opposite environmental characteristics: the typical habitat of the species (alpine meadow) and a marginal area bordering the forest. We used data collected during an 11-year study in the Gran Paradiso National Park (Italy) and performed a Bayesian survival trajectory analysis on marked individuals. Furthermore, we investigated, at a territorial level, the relationships among demographic parameters and habitat variables by using a path analysis approach. Contrary to our expectations, for most of the marmot’s lifespan, survival rate was higher in the marginal site closer to the forest and with lower visibility than in the alpine meadow site. Path analysis indicated that the number of families living close to each other negatively affected the stability of the dominant couple, which in turn affected both juvenile survival and reproduction. Given the lower number of neighbouring families which inhabited the marginal site and the potentially different predation pressure by the most effective predator in the area (Aquila chrysaetos), our results suggest that species adapted to live in open habitats may benefit from living in a marginal habitat. This study highlights the importance of habitats bordering the forest in the conservation of alpine marmots.