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Predicting the spread of the American grey squirrel (Sciurus carolinensis) in Europe: A call for a co-ordinated European approach

Lookup NU author(s): Dr Peter Lurz, Dr Roy SandersonORCiD, Professor Stephen Rushton


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The introduction of the American eastern grey squirrel (Sciurus carolinensis) in Europe is causing a dramatic decline of the native European red squirrel (Sciurus vulgaris), due to competition. We used spatially explicit population dynamics models to illustrate the potential expansion of the grey squirrel from Italy, the only continental country with the species, into neighbouring countries. Simulations started with the known grey squirrel distributions in 1996 and modelled the spread for the next 100 years in two different scenarios. One "best case" in which a random seed crop pattern of poor, good and mast seed crops was simulated with concomitant effects on squirrel fecundity and mortality and one "worst case" scenario in which poor years were not included. In the best case scenario, it will take 30-40 years for grey squirrels to start invading the Alps and about 70-75 years to cross the border between Italy and France. First populations in Switzerland are predicted in 2051-2066. In the worst case scenario, the spread will be significantly faster: the species is predicted to reach France in 2026-2031 and Switzerland in 2031-2041. Removing two of the three populations of grey squirrel will likely postpone the invasion of Switzerland but not of France. Large areas of Europe contain potentially good habitat for grey squirrels, and expansion from Italy, to France, Switzerland and belong to most of Eurasia is simply a matter of time. This will represent a serious risk for the conservation of the native red squirrel and will have implications for national forest operations. However, a European policy towards introduced species is still lacking. There is therefore a need for a co-ordinated European approach to the management of the grey squirrel and other introduced species. © 2008 Elsevier Ltd. All rights reserved.

Publication metadata

Author(s): Bertolino S, Lurz P, Sanderson RA, Rushton SP

Publication type: Article

Publication status: Published

Journal: Biological Conservation

Year: 2008

Volume: 141

Issue: 10

Pages: 2564-2575

Print publication date: 01/10/2008

ISSN (print): 0006-3207

ISSN (electronic): 1873-2917

Publisher: Elsevier BV


DOI: 10.1016/j.biocon.2008.07.017


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