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Spatial organisation and dynamics of the pine marten Martes martes population in Białowieza Forest (E Poland) compared with other European woodlands

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We studied factors affecting density and spacing patterns in the pine marten Martes martes population inhabiting temperate forests of Białowieza National Park, eastern Poland. From 1985/1986 to 1995/1996 marten densities ranged from 3.63 to 7.57 individuals 10 km−2 (mean 5.4) and were positively correlated with abundance of forest rodents in the previous year. The rate of marten population growth was inversely density-dependent and positively related to rodent density. Annual mortality rate averaged 0.384 and tended to be negatively related to marten densities. Mean annual home range of males (2.58 km2, SE=0.24) was larger than that of females (1.41 km2, SE=0.20). Seasonal home ranges also differed significantly between males and females. Both sexes held the smallest ranges in December–January. Female ranges increased in April–May, whereas those of males increased in June–September when they were mating. Fidelity of pine martens to their home ranges was very high. The mean shift between arithmetic centres of seasonal ranges was 0.25 km, and the ranges recorded in two consecutive seasons overlapped, on average, by 87–90%. We observed very little home range overlap between neighbouring male (mean 4–6%) or female (mean 6%) marten. Year round the neighbouring individuals of the same sex neither avoided nor attracted each other. Females attracted males only during the spring-summer mating season. A review of other studies has documented that winter severity and seasonal variation in ecosystem productivity were essential factors shaping the biogeographic variation in pine marten densities between 41o and 68oN. The density of marten populations increased in areas with mild winters and lower seasonality. Maximum population densities (indicative of habitat carrying capacity) were correlated with mean winter temperature. In Europe, male home ranges increased with decreasing forest cover in a study area, whereas female ranges varied positively with rodent abundance.
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Document Type: Research Article

Publication date: February 1, 2006

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