Mammal Research

, Volume 63, Issue 3, pp 357–367 | Cite as

Habitat selection of European pine marten in Central Italy: from a tree dependent to a generalist species

  • Emiliano Manzo
  • Paola BartolommeiEmail author
  • Alessandro Giuliani
  • Gabriele Gentile
  • Francesco Dessì-Fulgheri
  • Roberto Cozzolino
Original Article


Studies at small spatial scale are often fundamental to highlight the behavioural plasticity of a species and thus have important implications for conservation planning, in particular for species usually considered as habitat specialists. We investigated second-order habitat selection of the European pine marten in an area dominated by deciduous oak forest and open fields in central Italy, by radio-tracking 16 pine martens (eight males, eight females). Pine martens placed home ranges in areas with more open field than in the study area, whereas woodland (oak and conifer forests) comprised a smaller portion of the home range than predominant forest character of the studied area. Although the presence of the species in the open habitats has been documented, to our knowledge, our results provide the first evidence of home range establishment in this cover type by pine marten at population level. The combination of low predation risk and high availability of resources could allow pine martens to occupy open fields in our study area. We highlighted different individual strategies of habitat selection, with some individuals placing home ranges in areas with high forest coverage while others occupying open areas. We found no effects of sex and body condition on habitat selection, and this could indicate that in the study area, both forested and non-forested cover types, such as open fields, shrub and anthropic areas, can provide adequate food, overhead cover and resting sites for all individuals. Pine marten ability to occupy open fields seems thus more related to the behavioural flexibility of the species, rather than to the need to supplement dens and forage from complementary lower quality habitat. The high quality of the Mediterranean continental area studied could also explain the selection of open areas by the pine marten. Our results offer useful information on pine marten ecology and may be helpful for conservation management of this species in southern Europe.


Carnivore Martes martes Johnson’s second-order selection Habitat preference Radio-tracking Oak forest Specialist/generalist Behavioural plasticity 



We would like to thank S. Cafariello, I. Campana, S. Del Fante, M. Messinese and C. Nardi for help during fieldwork. We are grateful to A. Bonacchi, S. Gasperini and C. Bencini for their useful suggestions, and two anonymous reviewers who greatly improved our manuscript with their comments.

Compliance with ethical standards

All the work undertaken on pine martens during the study took place under the terms and condition of a licence issued by the Regione Toscana in compliance with the European Council Directive 92/43EEC (Italian law D.Lgs 157/92 and LR 3/1994) and communicated to the Italian Ministry of Health as required by the European Council Directive 86/609/EEC (Italian law D.Lgs 116/92).


  1. Aebischer NJ, Robertson PA, Kenward RE (1993) Compositional analysis of habitat use from animal radio-tracking data. Ecology 74:1313–1325CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  2. Balestrieri A, Remonti L, Ruiz-González A, Gómez-Moliner BJ, Vergara M, Prigioni C (2010) Range expansion of the pine marten (Martes martes) in an agricultural landscape matrix (NW Italy). Mamm Biol 75:412–419CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  3. Balestrieri A, Remonti L, Ruiz-González A, Vergara M, Capelli E, Gómez-Moliner BJ, Prigioni C (2011) Food habits of genetically identified pine marten (Martes martes) expanding in agricultural lowlands (NW Italy). Acta Theriol 56:199–207CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  4. Balestrieri A, Remonti L, Ruiz-González A, Zenato M, Gazzola A, Vergara M, Dettori EE, Saino N, Capelli E, Gómez-Moliner BJ, Guidali F, Prigioni C (2015) Distribution and habitat use by pine marten Martes martes in a riparian corridor crossing intensively cultivated lowlands. Ecol Res 30:153–162CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  5. Bartolommei P, Manzo E, Bencini C, Cozzolino R (2014) Morphological measurements of pine marten in Central Italy. Hystrix 25(2):111–112Google Scholar
  6. Bartolommei P, Manzo E, Cozzolino R (2016) Seasonal spatial behaviour of pine marten Martes martes in a deciduous oak forest of Central Italy. Mamm Res 61:319–326CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  7. Birks JDS, Messenger E, Halliwell EC (2005) Diversity of den sites used by pine martens Martes martes: a response to the scarcity of arboreal cavities? Mamm Review 35:313–320CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  8. Börger L, Franconi N, De Michele G, Gantz A, Meschi F, Manica A, Lovari S, Coulson T (2006) Effects of sampling regime on the mean and variance of home range size estimates. J Anim Ecol 75:1393–1405CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
  9. Boyce MS, McDonald LL (1999) Relating populations to habitat using resource selection functions. Trends Ecol Evol 14:268–272CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
  10. Brainerd SM, Helldin JO, Lindström ER, Rolstad E, Rolstad J, Storch I (1995) Pine marten (Martes martes) selection of resting site and denning sites in Scandinavian managed forest. Ann Zool Fennici 32:151–157Google Scholar
  11. Brainerd SM, Rolstad J (2002) Habitat selection by Eurasian pine martens Martes martes in managed forests of southern boreal Scandinavia. Wildl Biol 8:289–297CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  12. Brown JH (1984) On the relationship between abundance and distribution of species. Am Naturalist 124:255–279CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  13. Calenge C (2006) The package adehabitat for the R software: a tool for the analysis of space and habitat use by animals. Ecol Model 197:516–519CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  14. Caryl FM, Quine CP, Park KJ (2012) Martens in the matrix: the importance of nonforested habitats for forest carnivores in fragmented landscapes. J Mammal 93(2):464–474CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  15. Clevenger AP (1994) Habitat characteristics of Eurasian pine martens Martes martes in an insular Mediterranean environment. Ecography 17:257–263CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  16. Delibes M (1983) Interspecific competition and the habitat of the ston marte Martes foina (Erxleben 1777). Eur Acta Zool Fenn 174:229–231Google Scholar
  17. De Marinis AM, Masseti M (1995) Feeding habits of the pine marten Martes martes L., 1758, in Europe: a review. Hystrix 7(1–2):143–150Google Scholar
  18. De Winter JCF (2013) Using the Student’s t-test with extremely small sample sizes. Pract Assessment Res Eval 18:1–12Google Scholar
  19. Dunning JB, Danielson BJ, Pulliam HR (1992) Ecological processes that affect population in complex landscapes. Oikos 65(1):169–175CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  20. Devictor V, Clavel J, Julliard R, Lavergne S, Mouillot D, Thuiller W, Venail P, Villéger S, Mouquet N (2010) Defining and measuring ecological specialization. J Appl Ecol 47:15–25CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  21. Fattorini L, Pisani C, Riga F, Zaccaroni M (2014) A permutation-based combination of sign tests for assessing habitat selection. Environ Ecol Stat 21:161–187CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  22. Gasperini S (2016) Factors influencing population dynamics of terrestrial small mammals. Ph.D. dissertation, Università degli Studi di Siena, Siena, ItalyGoogle Scholar
  23. Gasperini S, Mortelliti A, Bartolommei P, Bonacchi A, Manzo E, Cozzolino R (2016) Effects of forest management on density and survival in three forest rodent species. Forest Ecol Manag 382:151–160CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  24. Hall CAS, Stanford JA, Hauer FR (1992) The distribution and abundance of organisms as a consequence of energy balances along multiple environmental gradients. Oikos 65:377–390CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  25. Helldin JO (1998) Pine marten (Martes martes) population limitation: food, harvesting of predation? Swedish University of Agricultural Sciences, Uppsala, Sweden, Ph.D. dissertationGoogle Scholar
  26. Jedrzejewski W, Zalewski A, Jedzrejewska B (1993) Foraging by pine marten Martes martes in relation to food resources in Białowieża National Park, Poland. Acta Theriol 38:405–426CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  27. Johnson DH (1980) The comparison of usage and availability measurements for evaluating resource preference. Ecology 61:65–71CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  28. Kenward RE (1992) Quantity versus quality: programmed collection and analysis of radio-tracking data. In: Priede IG, Swift SM (eds) Wildlife telemetry: remote monitoring and tracking of animals. Ellis Horwood, Chichester, pp 231–246Google Scholar
  29. Kurki S, Nikula A, Helle P, Linden H (1998) Abundances of red fox and pine marten in relation to the composition of boreal forest landscapes. J Anim Ecol 67:874–886CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
  30. Lanszki J, Zalewski A, Horváth G (2007) Comparison of red fox Vulpes vulpes and pine marten Martes martes food habits in a deciduous forest in Hungary. Wildl Biol 13:258–271CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  31. Larroque J, Ruette S, Vandel JM, Devillard S (2015) Where to sleep in a rural landscape? A comparative study of resting sites pattern in two syntopic Martes species. Ecography 38:001–012CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  32. Lashley MA, Chitwood MC, Kays R, Harper CA, DePerno CS, Moorman CE (2015) Prescribed fire affects female white-tailed deer habitat use during summer lactation. Forest Ecol Manag 348:220–225CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  33. Lindström ER (1989) The role of medium-sized carnivores in the Nordic boreal forest. Finnish Game Res 46:53–63Google Scholar
  34. Lindström ER, Brainerd SM, Helldin JO, Overskaug K (1995) Pine marten - red fox interactions: a case of intraguild predation? Ann Zool Fennici 32:123–130Google Scholar
  35. Lombardini M, Cinerari CE, Murru M, Vidus Rosin A, Mazzoleni L, Meriggi A (2015a) Habitat requirements of Eurasian pine marten Martes martes in a Mediterranean environment. Mamm Res 60:97–105CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  36. Lombardini M, Murru M, Repossi A, Cinerari CE, Vidus Rosin A, Mazzoleni L, Meriggi A (2015b) Spring diet of the pine marten in Sardinia, Italy. Anim Biodiver Conserv 32(2):183–190Google Scholar
  37. Manzo E, Bartolommei P, Rowcliffe JM, Cozzolino R (2011) Estimation of population density of European pine marten in Central Italy using camera trapping. Acta Theriol 57:165–172CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  38. McLoughlin PD, Walton LR, Cluff HD, Paquet PC, Ramsay MA (2004) Hierarchical habitat selection by tundra wolves. J Mamm 85(3):576–580CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  39. Mergey M, Helder R, Roeder JJ (2011) Effect of forest fragmentation on space-use patterns in the European pine marten Martes martes. J Mammal 92(2):328–335CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  40. Moll RJ, Kilshaw K, Montgomery RA, Abade L, Campbell RD, Harrington LA, Millspaugh JJ, Birks JDS, Macdonald DW (2016) Clarifying habitat niche width using broad-scale hierarchical occupancy model: a case study with a recovering mesocarnivore. J Zool 300:177–185. CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  41. O’Mahony DT (2014) Socio-spatial ecology of pine marten (Martes martes) in conifer forests, Ireland. Acta Theriol 59:251–256CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  42. Owen SF, Berl JL, Edwards JW, Ford WM, Wood PB (2015) Raccoon spatial requirements and multi-scale habitat selection within an intensively managed central Appalachian Forest. Am Midl Nat 174:87–95CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  43. Pereboom V, Mergey M, Villerette N, Helder R, Gerard JF, Lodé T (2008) Movement patterns, habitat selection, and corridor use of a typical woodland-dweller species, the European pine marten Martes martes, in fragmented landscape. Can J Zool 86:983–991CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  44. Powell RA, Zielinski WJ (1983) Competion and coexistence in mustelid communities. Acta Zool Fenn 174:223–227Google Scholar
  45. Pulliainen E (1984) Use of the home range by pine martens (Martes martes L.). Acta Zool Fenn 171:271–274Google Scholar
  46. Rettie WJ, Messier F (2000) Hierarchical habitat selection by woodland caribou: its relationship to limiting factors. Ecography 23:466–478CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  47. Rhim SJ, Son SH, Hwang HS (2015) Factors affecting chick mortality of hazel grouse in a temperate forest, South Korea. Forest Ecol Manag 348:92–96CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  48. Rondinini C, Boitani L (2002) Habitat use by beech marten in a fragmented landscape. Ecography 25:257–264CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  49. Rosellini S, Osorio E, Ruiz-González A, Piñeiro A, Barja I (2008) Monitoring the small-scale distribution of sympatric European pine martens (Martes martes) and stone martens (Martes foina): a multi-evidence approach using faecal DNA analysis and camera-traps. Wildl Res 35(5):434–440CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  50. Sagarin RD, Gaines SD (2002) The ‘abundant centre’ distribution: to what extent is it a biogeographical rule? Ecol Lett 5:137–147CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  51. Shine R (1989) Ecological causes for the evolution of sexual dimorphism: a review of the evidence. Q Rev Biol 64:419–461CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
  52. Sikes RS (2016) Guidelines of the American Society of Mammalogists for the use of wild mammals in research and education. J Mamm 97:663–688CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  53. Stier N (2000) Habitat use of the pine marten Martes martes in small-scaled woodlands of Mecklenburg (Germany). Lutra 43:185–204Google Scholar
  54. Stamps J (1994) Territorial behavior: testing the assumptions. Adv Study Behav 23:173–232CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  55. Storch I, Lindström E, de Jounge J (1990) Diet and habitat selection of the pine marten in relation to competition with the red fox. Acta Ther 35:311–320CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  56. Team QD (2014) QGIS. Place QGIS Geographic Information System. Open Source Geospatial Foundation ProjectGoogle Scholar
  57. Virgós E, Zalewski A, Rosalino LM, Mergey M (2012) Habitat ecology of Martes species in Europe: a review of the evidence. In: Aubry KB, Zielinski WJ, Raphael MG, Proulx G, Buskirk SW (eds) Biology and conservation of martens, sables, and fishers: a new synthesis. Cornell University Press, New York, pp 255–266Google Scholar
  58. Wagner CP, Weber MJ, Wahl DH (2015) Structural complexity influences littoral coarse Woody habitat selection by juvenile muskellunge. N Am J Fish Manage 35:14–19CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  59. Wereszczuk A, Zalewski A (2015) Spatial niche segregation of sympatric stone marten and pine marten - avoidance of competition or selection of optimal habitat? PLoS One 10:e0139852. CrossRefPubMedPubMedCentralGoogle Scholar
  60. White GC, Garrot RA (1990) Analysis of wildlife radio-tracking data. Academic Press, San Diego, CaliforniaGoogle Scholar
  61. Zalewski A, Jedrzejewski W, Jedzrejewska B (1995) Pine marten home ranges, numbers and predation on vertebrates in a deciduos forest (Bialowieza National Park, Poland). Ann Zool Fenn 32:131–144Google Scholar
  62. Zalewski A (1997) Factors affecting selection of resting site type by pine marten in a primeval deciduous forests (Biaowieza National Park, Poland). Acta Ther 42:271–288CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  63. Zalewski A (2004) Geographical and seasonal variation in food habits and prey size of European pine martens. In: Harrison DJ, Fuller AK, Proulx G (eds) Martens and fishers (Martes) in human-altered environments: an international perspective. Springer, New York, pp 77–98Google Scholar
  64. Zalewski A, Jędrzejewski W (2006) Spatial organisation and dynamics of the pine marten Martes martes population in Bialowieza Forest (E Poland) compared with other European woodlands. Ecography 29:31–43CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  65. Zimmerman JW, Powell RA (1995) Radiotelemetry error: location error method compared with error polygons and confidence ellipses. Can J Zool 73:1123–1133CrossRefGoogle Scholar

Copyright information

© Mammal Research Institute, Polish Academy of Sciences, Białowieża, Poland 2018

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Fondazione Ethoikos, Convento dell’OsservanzaRadicondoliItaly
  2. 2.Environment and Health DepartmentIstituto Superiore di SanitàRomeItaly
  3. 3.Department of BiologyUniversity of Rome Tor VergataRomeItaly
  4. 4.Department of Evolutionary Biology “Leo Pardi”University of FlorenceFlorenceItaly

Personalised recommendations