Explaining the successful introduction of the alpine marmot in the Pyrenees
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- López, B.C., Pino, J. & López, A. Biol Invasions (2010) 12: 3205. doi:10.1007/s10530-010-9712-0
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Alpine marmots were introduced into the northern Pyrenees between 1948 and 1988 from individuals captured in the French Alps, in order to bolster food sources for the golden eagle and brown bear. The marmot’s subsequent occupation of the southern Pyrenees has been extremely fast. From an initial population of ~400 individuals, the present population in the southern Pyrenees is estimated to be of more than 10,000 individuals. The objective of this study was to assess what were the mechanisms that have enabled such a fast occupation of the territory. We studied habitat preferences and habitat selection of the alpine marmot in the southern Pyrenees both at the micro- and meso-scale, and compared our results with similar data in the bibliography on their native region. We also compared climatic data from both the native and introduction sites. Our results indicate relatively low climate (precipitation and temperature) matching between the two sites but a relatively high habitat matching. Marmots negatively select high woody cover and the presence of conifers in their home range, while they choose alpine and sub-alpine meadows close to rivers with boulders. Furthermore, the marmot population is independent of snow cover duration. We conclude that the successful establishment in the Pyrenees by the alpine marmot is explained both by the habitat- and climate-matching mechanisms. In both aspects, marmots show a generalist response. Meso-scale GIS-derived variables were non significant when analyzed together with local, micro-scale variables from field measurements.