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Keywords:

  • alien species;
  • biogeographical comparison;
  • herbivore;
  • mountain ecosystems;
  • translocation

Abstract

  1. The introduction of non-native species can pose environmental and economic risks, but under some conditions, introductions can serve conservation or recreational objectives. To minimize risks, introductions should be conducted following the International Union for Conservation of Nature's guidelines and should include an initial assessment and a follow-up.
  2. In 1948, to reduce the predation pressure on Pyrenean chamois Rupicapra pyrenaica pyrenaica by golden eagles Aquila chrysaetos, the alpine marmot Marmota marmota was introduced to the Pyrenees in Western Europe. In successive introductions, about 500 marmots were released, but the fate of the released animals and their impacts on the environment remain largely unstudied.
  3. The aim of this study was to assess the success of the introduction of the alpine marmot into the Pyrenees, 60 years after the initial release, and the potential impacts of this species on Pyrenean ecosystems.
  4. We reviewed what is known about the marmot populations introduced to the Pyrenees and other populations within their native range in the Alps, particularly in terms of population structure and dynamics, habitat use and potential environmental impacts.
  5. The alpine marmot is widely distributed and, apparently, well established in the Pyrenees. Population structure and demographic parameters are similar within and outside the historical distribution range of the species, and habitat suitability is one of the main reasons for the species' success in the Pyrenees. Few researchers have investigated the impacts of alpine marmots in the Pyrenees; thus, those impacts have to be inferred from those observed in the species' native range or in other species of marmot. Introduced alpine marmots are likely to impact on Pyrenean grasslands through grazing and burrowing, have the potential to alter Pyrenean food webs and could act as vectors of parasites and disease.
  6. Although the introduction of the alpine marmot in the Pyrenees appears to have been successful, more needs to be known about the effects of the established populations on the environment before informed management actions can be taken in the Pyrenees.