The study of the effect of habitat fragmentation on species that inhabit residual patches requires the investigation of the relationship existing between species distribution and landscape components. To understand which components of landscape mosaics are more influential for species’ persistence, we compared the distribution of two arboreal rodents proved to be sensitive to habitat fragmentation, the hazel dormouse Muscardinus avellanarius and the red squirrel Sciurus vulgaris. Their occurrence in residual oak woods in central Italy was studied with nest-boxes and hair-tubes, developing a new method for hair analysis. Their distributions were analysed considering patch, matrix composition and configuration, and landscape vegetation variables. The two species showed a different degree of plasticity, with the squirrel being significantly more specialised at the landscape scale. The comparison of the two distribution patterns highlighted the influence of different ecological constraints and the existence of different strategies to cope with fragmentation. Patch size and patch attributes were generally weaker determinants of occurrence, compared to landscape metrics. The squirrel presence was significantly influenced by the presence of shared perimeter between hedgerows and woods and by the lack of isolation of the residual patches, suggesting the use of several fragments to compensate the low habitat quality. Conversely the hazel dormouse seemed to be more affected by the internal management of the woods, and in particular by the mean DBH. Our results highlight how the recognition of the extrinsic constraints and the influence of multi-scale habitat selection may help guiding land use management, to ensure species conservation in profoundly exploited landscapes.
Zapponi, L., Del Bianco, M., Luiselli, L., Catorci, A., Bologna, M.A. (2013). Assessing environmental requirements effects on forest fragmentation sensitivity in two arboreal rodents. MAMMALIAN BIOLOGY, 78, 157-173 [10.1016/j.mambio.2012.08.005].