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

Abstract

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.

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Acknowledgements

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.

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Correspondence to Paola Bartolommei.

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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).

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Communicated by: Andrzej Zalewski

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Manzo, E., Bartolommei, P., Giuliani, A. et al. Habitat selection of European pine marten in Central Italy: from a tree dependent to a generalist species. Mamm Res 63, 357–367 (2018). https://doi.org/10.1007/s13364-018-0374-0

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Keywords

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