Ecological Research

, Volume 30, Issue 1, pp 153–162 | Cite as

Distribution and habitat use by pine marten Martes martes in a riparian corridor crossing intensively cultivated lowlands

  • Alessandro Balestrieri
  • Luigi Remonti
  • Aritz Ruiz-González
  • Michele Zenato
  • Andrea Gazzola
  • Maria Vergara
  • Ettore E. Dettori
  • Nicola Saino
  • Enrica Capelli
  • Benjamín J. Gómez-Moliner
  • Franca Guidali
  • Claudio Prigioni
Original Article


The location of pine marten records in northern Italy suggests that main rivers may play the role of natural corridors favouring this species’ colonisation of cultivated lowlands. We assessed the distribution and habitat use by the pine marten on a 35 km long stretch of the River Ticino. Surveys were carried out between October 2011 and June 2012 along linear transects in a 2 × 2 km grid. Using the variation in marking intensity as an indicator of habitat use, habitat selection was assessed at two landscape levels—at transect-scale by the χ 2 test with Bonferroni’s confidence intervals for the proportion of use, and at grid-scale by multiple linear regression. By a polymerase chain reaction–restriction fragment length polymorphism method, 91 faecal samples were assigned to the pine marten. Faeces were mainly located in wooded areas, while fields were avoided. At the grid-scale of analysis, marking intensity was positively related to the mean area of wooded patches and negatively to their mean perimeter-area ratio. This suggests that pine marten relative abundance may partially depend on the degree of fragmentation and structure of residual woods. The survey protocol allowed to assess the probability of detection. Occupancy models outlined that heterogeneity in detection probability may arise as a result of variation in marking intensity, i.e. the number of marking individuals. Our results suggest that the availability of both woodland corridors and wood patches are major factors shaping pine marten distribution in intensively cultivated plains and that non-invasive genetic surveys are a cost-effective method for future studies at a broader scale.


Non-invasive genetic sampling Detectability Faecal DNA Stone marten Northern Italy 



This study has been partially supported by the Basque Government through the Research group on “Systematics, Biogeography and Population Dynamics” (Ref. IT317-10; IT575-13). Aritz Ruiz-González (Ref: DKR-2,012-64) and Maria Vergara (Ref: RBFI-2,012-446) were supported by a post-doctoral and PhD fellowships awarded by the Dept. of Education, Universities and Research of the Basque Government. We thank Pietro Tirozzi and Andrea Serioli, who helped with sample collection in the field for their degree theses. Lesley C. Wright kindly revised the paper for English language use. The comments of two anonymous reviewers helped to improve the final version of the manuscript.


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Copyright information

© The Ecological Society of Japan 2014

Authors and Affiliations

  • Alessandro Balestrieri
    • 1
  • Luigi Remonti
    • 2
  • Aritz Ruiz-González
    • 3
    • 4
    • 5
  • Michele Zenato
    • 2
  • Andrea Gazzola
    • 2
  • Maria Vergara
    • 3
    • 4
  • Ettore E. Dettori
    • 2
  • Nicola Saino
    • 1
  • Enrica Capelli
    • 2
  • Benjamín J. Gómez-Moliner
    • 3
  • Franca Guidali
    • 1
  • Claudio Prigioni
    • 2
  1. 1.Department of BiosciencesUniversity of MilanMilanItaly
  2. 2.Department of Earth and Environmental SciencesUniversity of PaviaPaviaItaly
  3. 3.Department of Zoology and Animal Cell BiologyUniversity of the Basque Country (UPV/EHU)Vitoria-GasteizSpain
  4. 4.Systematics, Biogeography and Population Dynamics Research Group, Lascaray Research CenterUniversity of the Basque Country (UPV/EHU)Vitoria-GasteizSpain
  5. 5.Conservation Genetics LaboratoryNational Institute for Environmental Protection and Research (ISPRA)Ozzano dell’EmiliaItaly

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