Non-invasive genotyping and spatial mark-recapture methods to estimate European pine marten density in forested landscapes
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Biological and Environmental Sciences, University of Stirling, Stirling, FK9 4LA
Forest Research, Centre for Ecosystems, Society and Biosecurity, Northern Research Station, Scotland, UK
Royal Society for the Protection of Birds , Etive House, Beechwood Park , Inverness, UK
Online publish date: 2017-12-30
Publish date: 2017-12-31
Hystrix It. J. Mamm. 2017;28(2):265–271
Accurate wildlife population density estimates are important for conservation purposes, but can be difficult to obtain where species are elusive or rare. We use individual genotypes derived from hair samples and Spatially Explicit Capture Recapture (SECR) models to estimate the population density of European pine marten (Martes martes) and examine the effects of forest fragmentation on population size. We take the first steps towards linking the number of scats in an area to population density, which may eventually negate the need for expensive genetic analyses in the future. Population density estimates ranged from 0.07 km-2 (95% CI 0.03-0.16) to 0.38 km-2 (95% CI 0.11-1.07), which were mid to low compared to other estimates from Scotland. We found support for the previous finding that pine marten density in Scotland increases with forest fragmentation up to a threshold level (20-35% forest cover), beyond which it decreases. We found a non-linear relationship between scat counts and population density, although this relationship may be biased by factors not included in the analysis and should be viewed with caution. Following the recent re-inforcement of pine martens to Wales, non-invasive genetic sampling for population estimation may provide an effective way of monitoring their progress.
Laura M. Kubasiewicz   
Biological and Environmental Sciences, University of Stirling, Stirling, FK9 4LA