Understanding the American marten could help conservation, but habitat loss threatens its existence


ORONO – The American marten is more than Maine’s cutest carnivore. The marten, which is widespread throughout the forests of the state, can tell scientists a lot about the population dynamics of a number of other mammals, but forest disturbances and climate change threaten the existence of the marten. ‘species.

A group of University of Maine researchers led by Alessio Mortelliti, an associate professor in the Department of Wildlife, Fisheries, and Conservation Biology, found that the American marten could serve as an “umbrella surveillance species.” “effective for 11 other species of mammals in Maine. Umbrella monitoring species are those whose monitoring efforts also overlap with a number of other species. As such, they are useful in reducing the effort required for large monitoring programs, which collect repeated observations or measurements of wildlife to ensure that environmental management objectives are being met.

Marten may need more attention than ever, as the loss of mature forests and habitat fragmentation have led to declining marten populations. Their habitat overlaps with areas of interest to Maine’s logging industry, and climate change continues to transform forests.

In a study published in the journal Nature Scientific Reports, UMaine researchers monitored 197 survey sites across Maine. They used camera traps, which are digital cameras that automatically take a picture when their infrared sensors are triggered by a movement, like that of an animal, to take more than 800,000 pictures of 27 different mammal species on a four-year period.

The results showed that American marten monitoring has an ‘umbrella effect’ over 11 other mammals when it comes to detecting different magnitudes of population decline. Effectiveness varied by species, with fishers, snowshoe hares, red squirrels and black bears being constantly covered under the American marten’s “umbrella”, while porcupines and bobcats were least covered.

Still, the results show that multi-species monitoring is feasible, especially with an effective species-monitoring umbrella like the American marten.

“These results are exciting because they show that up to 11 species of mammals can be monitored simultaneously. This is great news for conservation and management bodies as it shows that by focusing efforts on one species, the marten, they will automatically be able to detect declines in many other species. This could result in huge cost savings, which is no small thing in a world where conservation resources are so limited,” Mortelliti says.

The American marten monitoring study, which was funded by the Maine Department of Inland Fisheries and Wildlife (MDIFW) and the Cooperative Forestry Research Unit, is now in its fifth year, with over a million photographs. Researchers focused on developing a monitoring protocol specifically for the winter season, when detection of protected species, such as Canada lynx, is more likely. The American marten monitoring protocol could be applied for monitoring similar temperate ecosystems in North America and Europe.

That is, of course, if American marten populations can survive the disturbance and destruction of their forest habitats. Mortelliti and his team also studied how martens and their close relative, the fisherman, responded to disturbed forest habitat in Maine. The researchers took their camera-trap observations of the two species and examined the sites where martens and fishers were found. They compared the extent of snow latitude and depth, the intensity of forest disturbance through remote sensing imagery, and the number of martens and fishers reported by fur trappers when martens were present. and fishers.

The findings, recently published in the journal Ecosphere, showed that areas with more recent and intense deforestation activities negatively affected marten and fisher populations.

“We thought marten might be negatively influenced by the presence of the largest fisherman, but our data indicates that’s not really the case here in Maine,” says Bryn Evans, a recent Ph.D. graduate. student and co-author of the study. “Instead, the martens choose the areas least disturbed by the forest, regardless of the presence of fishermen. Climate change is also likely to have a more intense impact on marten than on fisher. It is essential to have a watchful eye over the next few years, so that declines in the marten population can be identified quickly. This is why it is so wonderful that the MDIFW continues to monitor these species in the future.


Comments are closed.