Distribution, Population Size, and Habitat Characteristics of the Endangered European Ground Squirrel ( Spermophilus citellus, Rodentia, Mammalia) in Its Southernmost Range
Dimitris Kavroudakis () and
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Dimitra-Lida Rammou: Laboratory of Marine and Terrestrial Animal Diversity, Department of Zoology, School of Biology, Aristotle University of Thessaloniki, GR-54124 Thessaloniki, Greece
Dionisios Youlatos: Laboratory of Marine and Terrestrial Animal Diversity, Department of Zoology, School of Biology, Aristotle University of Thessaloniki, GR-54124 Thessaloniki, Greece
Sustainability, 2021, vol. 13, issue 15, 1-13
The European ground squirrel ( Spermophilus citellus ) is an endangered species, endemic to Central and Southeastern Europe, inhabiting burrow colonies in grassland and agricultural ecosystems. In recent years, agricultural land-use changes and increased urbanization have largely contributed to a severe population decline across its range, particularly in its southernmost edge. Assessing the population and habitat status of this species is essential for prioritizing appropriate conservation actions. The present study aims to track population size changes and identify habitat characteristics of the species in Greece via a literature search, questionnaires, and fieldwork for assessing trends in population size as well as spatial K-means analysis for estimating its relation to specific habitat attributes. We found that both distribution size (grid number) and colony numbers of the species decreased in the last decades (by 62.4% and 74.6%, respectively). The remaining colonies are isolated and characterized by low density (mean = 7.4 ± 8.6 ind/ha) and low number of animals (mean = 13 ± 16 individuals). Most of the colonies are situated in lowlands and did not relate to specific habitat attributes. Habitat aspect and system productivity (NDVI) were the main factors contributing mostly to the clustering of the existing colonies. These results demonstrate that the species is confined to small, isolated anthropogenic habitats. Specific conservation actions such as population reinforcement, habitat improvement, and specific common agricultural policy measures could effectively improve agroecological zones that are suitable for the maintenance and protection of existing and potential habitats for populations of the species.
Keywords: Greece; souslik; conservation; Mediterranean (search for similar items in EconPapers)
JEL-codes: O13 Q Q0 Q2 Q3 Q5 Q56 (search for similar items in EconPapers)
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Persistent link: https://EconPapers.repec.org/RePEc:gam:jsusta:v:13:y:2021:i:15:p:8411-:d:603028
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