Wildlife Research Wildlife Research Society
Ecology, management and conservation in natural and modified habitats
RESEARCH ARTICLE

Habitat use of remnant forest habitats by the threatened arboreal marsupial Dromiciops gliroides (Microbiotheria) in a rural landscape of southern Chile

Cecilia Smith-Ramirez A B F , Juan L. Celis-Diez A C , Erik von Jenstchyk A D , Jaime E. Jimenez E and Juan J. Armesto A C
+ Author Affiliations
- Author Affiliations

A Instituto de Ecología y Biodiversidad, Casilla 653, Santiago, Chile.

B Instituto de Geociencias, Universidad Austral de Chile, Valdivia, Chile.

C Centro de Estudios Avanzados en Ecología y Biodiversidad, Pontificia Universidad Católica de Chile, Casilla 114-D, Santiago, Chile.

D Universidad de La Frontera, Temuco, Chile.

E Laboratorio de Ecología, Universidad de Los Lagos, Casilla 933, Osorno, Chile.

F Corresponding author. Email: csmith@willnet.cl

Wildlife Research 37(3) 249-254 https://doi.org/10.1071/WR09050
Submitted: 25 April 2009  Accepted: 30 March 2010   Published: 18 May 2010

Abstract

Context. Remnant forest patches in rural landscapes may be important sites for maintaining viable populations of restricted forest species, especially when these remnant habitats maintain some connectivity, for instance through riparian vegetation strips and other forest patches.

Aims. We assessed the use of remnant forest habitats in a rural landscape of southern Chile (40°S) by the ‘near threatened’ arboreal marsupial Dromiciops gliroides (Microbiotheria), in relation to habitat type (riparian strips, forest fragments and continuous forests), width of the riparian forests, and the presence and abundance of the hemiparasite Tristerix corymbosus, whose fruits are readily eaten by D. gliroides.

Methods. In two summers, 2004 and 2008, we set up grids of 96 live traps for three consecutive nights at each of 16 sites along two riparian forest strips, four additional sites in remnant, non-riparian forest patches, and four more within continuous pre-Andean forest. We counted hemiparasites on trees in the trapping grid area, and estimated their individual volumes.

Key results . In total, 48 individuals of D. gliroides were captured at all sites during the 2 years. We documented a significant positive relationship between the width of riparian vegetation and the number of individuals captured (r s = 0.78, P = 0.02, n = 8) for one riparian strip, but not for the second one. Neither habitat type nor the frequency of hemiparasites related statistically to D. gliroides abundance.

Key conclusions. We conclude that in the rural landscape of the Chilean Lake District, narrow riparian forest strips, in a highly inter-connected mosaic of remnant forest patches may be as important as large patches and continuous Andean forests to sustain viable populations of this threatened, strictly arboreal, marsupial.

Implications. The present study reports, for the first time, the presence in narrow riparian forests immersed in a pasture-dominated agricultural matrix of this forest-specialist marsupial, which was previously known only from continuous pre-Andean forests.


Acknowledgements

We are grateful to landowners for permission to work in their forests. We thank J. Borja, E. Elgueta, M. Galáz, S. Guala, H. Yáñez, P. Martínez, M. Nuñez, A. Quijano, A. Rivera, S. Uribe, A. Valiente, A. Vásquez, P. Villegas and P. Albarrán for field assistance and P. Necochea and F. Ortega for GIS referencing and cartography. We also thank G. Amico, R. Jaña, M. Aizen, J. Kenagy, R. Vásquez and M. F. Willson for technical discussions and advice. Work supported by Project ICA 4-CT-2001-10095 of the European Economic Community program INCO IV, The BBVA Foundation prise in Research in Conservation Biology, FONDECYT-FONDAP 1501-0001 to CASEB, Iniciativa Cientifica Milenio P05-002 to IEB, PFB-23 (CONICYT) and CONICYT Graduate Fellowship AT-24050068 to J. L. Celis-Diez. This is a contribution to the research program of Senda Darwin Foundation. We dedicate this work to our co-author, Erik von Jenstchyk, young researcher who lost his life in the Chilean tsunami of summer 2010.


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