Advanced

Martens in a novel habitat – The importance of prey and habitat structure

Eriksson, Charlotte (2016) BIOP01 20152
Degree Projects in Biology
Popular Abstract
The Pacific marten (Martes caurina) is thought to be a forest specialist closely linked to older forests with high canopy cover and dense shrubs. It is therefore highly surprising that a small population have been found in the coastal sand dunes in Oregon, United States. The martens seem to be choosing this habitat even though large areas of older forests are available just next to the dunes. With this project we wanted to explore potential reasons why the marten seem to prefer this unique habitat.
Martens are small slender-bodied carnivores with high metabolic rates which means they need to eat continuously. On a daily basis a marten must consume approximately 25% of its own body weight which equates to for example seven voles and a... (More)
The Pacific marten (Martes caurina) is thought to be a forest specialist closely linked to older forests with high canopy cover and dense shrubs. It is therefore highly surprising that a small population have been found in the coastal sand dunes in Oregon, United States. The martens seem to be choosing this habitat even though large areas of older forests are available just next to the dunes. With this project we wanted to explore potential reasons why the marten seem to prefer this unique habitat.
Martens are small slender-bodied carnivores with high metabolic rates which means they need to eat continuously. On a daily basis a marten must consume approximately 25% of its own body weight which equates to for example seven voles and a considerable hunting effort. We predicted that there would be more prey on the dunes compared to the older forest which could explain this unusual marten habitat use. However, martens are also threatened by other predators both by potential competitors such as foxes and skunks that hunt the same prey, and by larger carnivores that prey on martens such as bobcats and owls. We therefore also wanted to investigate whether the martens were avoiding the older forest because there are more carnivores there.
We used camera traps (cameras triggered by movement) to assess the abundance of small mammals and birds as well as presence of martens and other carnivores in Siuslaw National Forest, Oregon. We also recorded information on the vegetation such as shrub cover, canopy cover and tree height to describe the habitat structure.
As predicted, the relative abundance and diversity of prey species was higher in the dune forest compared to the interior forest. The presence of competitors and predators were often equal or higher within the dunes which suggests that competition with other predators is not influencing the habitat selection of the martens. The shrub cover was higher in the dunes while the canopy cover was higher in the interior forest.
There may be several reasons why there are more prey species in the dune forest, such as a high abundance of food resources like mushrooms and berries. It could also be the high shrub cover which provides cover from predators. Similarly, the martens may also prefer the dune forest because they are more protected from predators there, but also because there are more prey available. Our study suggests that martens are more flexible in their habitat use than previously believed, and that relative abundance of prey and a high shrub cover may be more important than forest age. These findings are important for management of the dune forest and for conservation of the rare coastal marten.

Advisor: Dr Taal Levi (OSU) and Dr Katie Moriarty (U.S Forest Service)
Master´s Degree Project 60 credits in Conservation Biology 2015-2016
Department of Biology, Lund University (Less)
Please use this url to cite or link to this publication:
author
Eriksson, Charlotte
supervisor
organization
course
BIOP01 20152
year
type
H2 - Master's Degree (Two Years)
subject
language
English
id
8891746
date added to LUP
2016-09-14 14:18:55
date last changed
2016-09-14 14:18:55
@misc{8891746,
  author       = {Eriksson, Charlotte},
  language     = {eng},
  note         = {Student Paper},
  title        = {Martens in a novel habitat – The importance of prey and habitat structure},
  year         = {2016},
}