Ecology of frontier populations of the invasive grey squirrel (Sciurus carolinensis) in Ireland

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Goldstein, Emily Anne
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University College Cork
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The rise in invasive species, together with habitat destruction, is associated with worldwide declines in biodiversity and ecosystem functioning. Management of invasive species, as well as amelioration of invasion impacts, provide challenges to species and ecosystem ecologists and conservation managers. Although any species can become invasive if it is transported to, establishes in and spreads in a new environment outside of its native range, rodents are a particularly frequent invader. Rodent introductions are often inadvertent but are also commonly intentional as these animals are traded and transported as pets and may escape from captivity. Tree squirrel species are attractive to humans and are able to establish populations with only a few founding individuals, making them a group well suited to performing the role of biological invaders. The eastern grey squirrel (Sciurus carolinensis) is the most commonly introduced squirrel species worldwide. This research addressed the grey squirrel invasion and frontier population biology. Novel results were generated through diverse research techniques. Public sighting surveys and hairtube surveys were used to locate the southern frontier of grey squirrel range expansion in Ireland. A 22-month intensive live trapping study of two frontier populations facilitated the collection of personality and demographic data from squirrels in increasing populations. A systematic literature search on grey squirrel demography provided context for the studied populations, among frontier and established introduced populations, as well as those in the native range. Advanced spatially explicit population modeling techniques predicted future range expansion and objectively compared the outcomes of 12 grey squirrel management strategies. The methods and results are discussed in both a basic scientific and applied invasion management context. An improved understanding of the behaviour, population dynamics, and future scenarios at the frontier of species invasions is crucial for managers worldwide and this is provided here for the grey squirrel in Ireland.
Sciurus carolinensis , Frontier populations , Personality , Biological invasions , Grey squirrel , Citizen science , Spatially explicit population modeling
Goldstein, E. A. 2014. Ecology of frontier populations of the invasive grey squirrel (Sciurus carolinensis) in Ireland. PhD Thesis, University College Cork.