Beyond habitat structure: Landscape heterogeneity explains the monito del monte (Dromiciops gliroides) occurrence and behavior at habitats dominated by exotic trees

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Abstract

Habitat structure determines species occurrence and behavior. However, human activities are altering natural habitat structure, potentially hampering native species due to the loss of nesting cavities, shelter or movement pathways. The South American temperate rainforest is experiencing an accelerated loss and degradation, compromising the persistence of many native species, and particularly of the monito del monte (Dromiciops gliroides Thomas, 1894), an arboreal marsupial that plays a key role as seed disperser. Aiming to compare 2 contrasting habitats (a native forest and a transformed habitat composed of abandoned Eucalyptus plantations and native understory vegetation), we assessed D. gliroides' occurrence using camera traps and measured several structural features (e.g. shrub and bamboo cover, deadwood presence, moss abundance) at 100 camera locations. Complementarily, we used radio telemetry to assess its spatial ecology, aiming to depict a more complete scenario. Moss abundance was the only significant variable explaining D. gliroides occurrence between habitats, and no structural variable explained its occurrence at the transformed habitat. There were no differences in home range, core area or inter-individual overlapping. In the transformed habitats, tracked individuals used native and Eucalyptus-associated vegetation types according to their abundance. Diurnal locations (and, hence, nesting sites) were located exclusively in native vegetation. The landscape heterogeneity resulting from the vicinity of native and Eucalyptus-associated vegetation likely explains D. gliroides occurrence better than the habitat structure itself, as it may be use Eucalyptus-associated vegetation for feeding purposes but depend on native vegetation for nesting.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)413-421
Number of pages9
JournalIntegrative zoology
Volume11
Issue number5
DOIs
StatePublished - 1 Sep 2016

Keywords

  • behavior
  • fleshy fruits
  • southern Chile
  • spatial ecology
  • temperate rainforest

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