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The Endangered Siberian marmot Marmota sibirica as a keystone species? Observations and implications of burrow use by corsac foxes Vulpes corsac in Mongolia

  • James D. Murdoch (a1), Tserendorj Munkhzul (a2), Suuri Buyandelger (a3), Richard P. Reading (a4) and Claudio Sillero-Zubiri (a1)...

The Siberian marmot Marmota sibirica is a social, colonial-living rodent that ranges widely throughout northern Asia. In Mongolia the species has declined substantially in recent years due to overharvesting for fur, meat and body parts, used locally and traded illegally in international markets. The Siberian marmot is often considered a keystone species because its burrows appear to represent an important resource for a variety of taxa, including carnivores. However, few studies have quantified marmot burrow use by other species, although such use may be important for developing conservation strategies. We monitored patterns of burrow use by 10 radio-collared corsac foxes Vulpes corsac during a study in Mongolia during May–November 2006. Corsacs used marmot burrows regularly and at rates greater than expected by chance, suggesting that burrows represent an important resource for foxes and supporting the notion of the Siberian marmot as a keystone species. As corsacs are also declining in Mongolia we contend that targeted patrols of marmot colonies in certain areas would provide a cost-effective means of protecting both species.

Corresponding author
*Wildlife Conservation Research Unit, Department of Zoology, University of Oxford, Tubney House, Abingdon Road, Tubney, OX13 5QL, UK. E-mail
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