Recovering Endangered Siberian Marmot (Marmota sibirica): Status and Distribution in a Steppe Region of Mongolia
Date of Completion
Honors College Thesis
Wildlife and Fisheries Biology
Dr. James Murdoch
Dr. Allan Strong
Dr. Stephanie McKay
steppe environment, species recovery, Ikh Nart, Mongolia, burrow, keystone species
The Siberian marmot (Marmota sibirica), a keystone species once considered to be common and widespread throughout Mongolia, has undergone dramatic declines in recent years. Overharvesting (both legal and illegal), overgrazing, and habitat changes have led to widespread declines and localized extinctions throughout the country. Between the years of 1940 and 2001, populations experienced an estimated 87.5% decline and have likely continued on this trajectory. To assess the current status of the species in Ikh Nart Nature Reserve, located in the Eastern Gobi Steppe, I surveyed 81 historic marmot colonies previously found to be active in 2010. Of these, a mere 3 showed signs of marmot activity, meaning a 96% decline. Surveys of an additional 62 random sites in the landscape and informal interviews with local herders resulted in the discovery of no new colonies. A logistic regression and model selection approach was used to assess the influence of ecological landscape characteristics on marmot occupancy probability. I evaluated 77 candidate models that included single and additive combinations of 21 variables related to habitat, topography, and human influences at multiple spatial scales. The top-ranking model indicated that occupancy was best described by a negative association with the amount of rocky habitat and tall grassland vegetation in a colony. Results suggest that marmots seek habitats with adequate substrate for burrows and low vegetation cover and are habitat generalists in open grassland and shrub-land environments. Understanding patterns of occupancy will inform planned marmot reintroductions throughout steppe environments.
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Becchina, Reilly A., "Recovering Endangered Siberian Marmot (Marmota sibirica): Status and Distribution in a Steppe Region of Mongolia" (2020). UVM Honors College Senior Theses. 331.