Ecology and Conservation of Endangered Territorial Species Under Invasion
AdvisorKoprowski, John L.
MetadataShow full item record
PublisherThe University of Arizona.
RightsCopyright © is held by the author. Digital access to this material is made possible by the University Libraries, University of Arizona. Further transmission, reproduction or presentation (such as public display or performance) of protected items is prohibited except with permission of the author.
AbstractBiological invasions threaten biodiversity globally, and degraded ecosystems increase the potential for invaders to compete with threatened native populations. In natural systems, niche partitioning minimizes interspecific competition, but introduced species may alter expected outcomes by competing with ecologically similar species for scarce resources. Where food production is highly variable, coexistence of native and invasive competitors may depend on dietary niche flexibility. Territorial species under invasion face additional challenges to maintain economically defendable territories. From 2011-2016, we conducted removal and behavior experiments to determine effects of non-territorial introduced Abert’s squirrels (Sciurus aberti) on diet, space use, and territoriality of endangered Mount Graham red squirrels (MGRS; Tamiasciurus fremonti grahamensis) in their declining habitat in the Pinaleño Mountains, Arizona. We collected comparative data from Arizona sites of natural syntopy between Abert’s and Fremont’s squirrels (T. fremonti). Stable isotope analysis revealed similar dietary partitioning among populations. Experimental removals did not appear to affect MGRS diet. Space use by MGRS responded inconsistently to removals; territory sizes increased after the first removal, but did not change following the second removal. Territory sizes and body mass of MGRS were sensitive to conspecific population density and food production. Behavioral experiments showed MGRS were more aggressive than other Fremont’s squirrels (hereafter, red squirrels). Dietary flexibility of Abert’s squirrels may have facilitated coexistence with MGRS, possibly due to coevolved resource partitioning with red squirrels. However, aggressive territoriality toward Abert’s squirrels may incur fitness costs for MGRS especially during poor food production years. Climate change may reduce the advantage of ecological specialist species globally, and where introduced species are better-adapted to novel environmental conditions, native species may ultimately be replaced.
Degree ProgramGraduate College