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., 112 (Russian), 150-151 (English)


J. Herrero*-**, R. Garcia-Gonzalez*, A. Garcia-Serrano**

* Instituto Pirenaico de Ecologia
** EGA S.C., Wildlife Consultants, Jaca, Spain

Alpine marmot (Marmota marmota) disappeared from the Pyrenees at the end of the Pleistocene or beginning of the Holocne, 15000 years ago, probably due to the more benign climatic conditions of the Holocene which led to the forest limit moving higher up, reducing the species' habitat. It was introduced in the French Pyrenees since 1948. From the beginning of the sixties they were also present on the spanish slope were research started at the beginning of the eighties. The habitat currently occupied by the species in the Pyrenees consists of supraforestal pastures over 1800m as in the Alps. The success of Alpine marmot introduction in the Pyrenees is probably due to the existence of an extensive supraforestal open area artificially created for pastoral use.

To study the species habitat selection we chosed a valley of South-western Pyrenees. Marmots selected southern exposures and habitats with high vegetation cover and nutritional value such as Primulion, Mesobromion and Polygonium-Rumicion.

Regarding population structure we carried out a census during august in the species westernmost area. Considering 10 families the average number of animals was 5.3 (SE=0.8, Range=2-10) and 50% of them were youngs of the year. No significative difference was found with alpine censuses.

We also intensively surveyed two adyacent marmot families during a whole vegetative period. Marmots were active for aproximatly 6 months and showed a bimodal daily activity rythm. Their home range was 0.9 and 0.7 hectare with a density of 2.9 and 5.5 animals per hectare. From direct observation and vegetation samples we determined 35 species they fed on. Marmots used dicotiledons more than monocotiledons, prefered species in a phenological state between leaf and fruit and did not consume species that were withered or sprouting. The microhistological analysis of faeces showed that the most important parts of plants that appeared in the diet seemed to be leafs and not flowers of dycotiledons and Graminae influorescences as in other studies.

Main predators in the Pyrenees seem to be Golden eagle (Aquila chrysaetos), foxes (Vulpes vulpes) and shepard dogs (Canis familiaris). Bearded vultures feed on marmots but predation has not been recorded.

Coprologies and necropsies revealed that Alpine Marmot as an introduced species has also introduced Ctenotaenia marmotae a dominant parasite in the Alps, and the lack of Citellina alpina, another important parasite of the species. Capillaria hepatica, which is new for the Pyrenees, was also found in some animals.

The legal status of Alpine marmots in the Spanish Pyrenees considers the species as introduced and non-threatened. This status may change as densities increase even though there is a general unofficial acceptance of marmots living in the Pyrenees.
Alpine marmots have adapted remarkably well to the Pyrenean environment and for the moment no major ecological problem has arisen. Research has to focus on its adaptations and on the consequences of this introduction for species and habitats.

Retour au sommaire / Back to Abstracts contents