Natural strongholds for red squirrel conservation in Scotland

Andrew Slade, Andy White, Kenny Kortland, Peter W. W. Lurz

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Abstract

The Eurasian Red Squirrel (Sciurus vulgaris) is under threat from the invasive North American eastern Grey Squirrel (Sciurus carolinensis) with 80% of the remaining red squirrel populations in the British Isles found in Scotland. In this study we develop a spatially explicit mathematical model of the red and grey squirrel system and use it to assess the population viability of red squirrels across Scotland. In particular, we aim to identify existing forests – natural strongholds for red squirrels – that can successfully support red squirrels under UK Forestry Standard management and protect them from potential disease-mediated competition from grey squirrels. Our model results indicate that if current levels of grey squirrel control, which restrict or reduce the distribution of grey squirrels, are continued then there will be large expanses of forests in northern Scotland that support viable red squirrel populations. Model results that represent (hypothetical) scenarios where grey squirrel control no longer occurred indicated that grey squirrel range expansion and the process of red squirrel replacement would be slow. Model results for an assumed worst-case scenario where grey squirrels have expanded to all regions in Scotland identified forest regions – denoted natural strongholds – that could currently support red squirrels under UK Forestry Standard management practice. The results will be used to inform forest management policy and support a strategic review of red squirrel management by land management agencies and other stakeholders.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)93-108
Number of pages16
JournalNature Conservation
Volume43
DOIs
Publication statusPublished - 9 Apr 2021

Keywords

  • Ecological modelling
  • Forest management
  • Invasive species
  • Policy

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Nature and Landscape Conservation

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