Holarctic Marmots as a factor of Biodiversity.
Rumiantsev V.Yu;, Nikol'skii A.A. & Brandler O.V. eds.,
Abstracts, 3d Conference on Marmots (Cheboksary, Russia, 25-30 August 1997),
Moscow ABF 1997, 216p.


U. Huettmeir

Nationalparkinstitut Hohe Tauern, Museum Haus der Natur Institut fur Zoologie, Universitet Salzburg, Salzburg, Austria

The habitat selection of alpine marmots depends on many different parameters. The availability of food, suitable substratum for their burrowing activities, predator avoidance, climate and the duration of the snow cover, but also anthropogenic influence (hunting, feeding) may affect the space-occupation strategies of marmots. The main ecological parameters analysed in recent habitat studies are altitude, exposition, slope, soil and vegetation.

I will present the results of a study on the habitat selection of alpine marmots done in two study plots in the Hohe Tauern National Park. One of them lies in a touristically highly frequented area (where marmots are fed); the other one is a nearly tourist-free valley. I have quantified the common parameters, but also analysed geomorphology, physical surface structures and substratum cover of the habitat.
1. The marmots preferred fine grained screes and moraines as burrowing substratum.
2. The vegetation is dominated by alpine grassland. There is also a significant higher part of lush vegetation and bare earth. The preference for alpine meadows is clearly caused by the food habits of the marmots, while the relatively high percentage of lush vegetation and bare earth may be a consequence of marmot behaviour (manuring with faeces and burrowing activities).
3. The main burrows are usually found at slopes with a medium inclination of 20 deg to 40 deg. If there are small rounded hill tops and ridges available, they are preferred as burrow sites, functioning as good outlook posts.
4. Preferably, burrows are situated in areas of low physical surface structure and with long distances to structures which could provide cover for predators. Facts 3 and 4 are interpreted as anti-predator-strategies. The most important predators of alpine marmots in the study plot are the golden eagle and the red fox.
5. Comparing the anthropogenically influenced and the tourist-free areas only differences in the marmot-density could be found (higher family densities in the area with feeding by tourists). No differences could be found in the habitat utilization.

Therefore, I am concluding that not food availability, but predator avoidance and burrowing facilities are the main criteria for habitat selection of the marmots in the study areas.

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