Modelling ecological networks and dispersal in the grey squirrel Sciurus carolinensis

Claire Stevenson, PhD student, Centre for Wildlife Conservation, University of Cumbria, Newton Rigg, Penrith, Cumbria CA11 0AH. Email: Claire.Stevenson”at” .  The Grey Squirrel was introduced to Britain in the 19th Century and is now widespread and continuing to increase its range. Understanding temporal and spatial dispersal patterns and, how different land cover types affect species movement and ecological networks is particularly important when conserving a species which is sensitive to habitat fragmentation and when controlling invasive species. This study is using the least cost tool from the Biological and Environmental Evaluation Tools for Landscape Ecology (BEETLE), designed by Forest Research, to model the functional connectivity of grey squirrel habitat within Cumbria, UK, and assess dispersal routes and directions within the county. With all modelling techniques, validation, which is where comparisons are drawn between the model outputs and independent observations, is important to show the reliability of the model. This study is therefore using a combination of genetic mitochondrial DNA sequencing and GPS telemetry to validate the model outputs. These techniques will also provide detailed information that can inform policy makers and wildlife managers on what constitutes barriers or conduits for grey squirrels in the landscape and give information on grey squirrel dispersal ecology. The project is funded by the University of Cumbria and the Forestry Commission GB.

Comments are closed.