Journal Article

Martens in the matrix: the importance of nonforested habitats for forest carnivores in fragmented landscapes

Fiona M. Caryl, Christopher P. Quine and Kirsty J. Park

in Journal of Mammalogy

Published on behalf of American Society of Mammalogists

Volume 93, issue 2, pages 464-474
Published in print April 2012 | ISSN: 0022-2372
Published online April 2012 | e-ISSN: 1545-1542 | DOI: http://dx.doi.org/10.1644/11-MAMM-A-149.1
Martens in the matrix: the importance of nonforested habitats for forest carnivores in fragmented landscapes

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The intervening landscape between patches of forest (i.e., matrix) has enormous potential to mitigate the negative effects of forest fragmentation. However, to release this potential requires understanding of how individual species perceive matrix. Here we investigated use of matrix by pine martens (Martes martes) in a region with low forest cover (Scotland). We radiotracked 11 martens to determine their habitat preferences, then combined our data with those published from 5 additional Scottish landscapes to examine how home-range size (i.e., population density) and diet of martens varied with forest edge density (i.e., fragmentation). Our tracking showed that although mature forest was the most preferred habitat, certain matrix habitats (scrub and tussock grassland) also were consistently selected. These 2 habitats provided martens with fundamental resources that are of limited availability within intensively managed plantation forests: den sites and primary prey (Microtus agrestis). Our synthesis of data across landscapes indicated martens benefit from supplemental resources in matrix habitats; consumption of small mammals increased with fragmentation and coincided with an initial increase in marten population densities. However, population densities of martens decreased once fragmentation passed a threshold level. Our results demonstrate that habitat complementation at the landscape-scale is essential for some forest-associated species. Resource supplementation from matrix habitats may be particularly important in regions with a long history of low-forest cover or where forest cover is now dominated by afforested plantations, which may lack essential resources.

Keywords: afforestation; foraging ecology; functional connectivity; habitat complementation; habitat selection; home range; Martes martes; plantation; resource subsidy; Scotland

Journal Article.  7375 words.  Illustrated.

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