Shatalin Oleg Andreevich, Master degree student, Penza State University (40 Krasnaya street, Penza, Russia), E-mail: email@example.com
Dobrolyubov Aleksandr Nikolaevich, Director, State Nature Reserve “Privolzhskaya lesostep” (12 A Okruzhnaya street, Penza, Russia), E-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org
Leonova Natal'ya Alekseevna, Candidate of biological sciences, associate professor, sub-department of general biology and biochemistry, Penza State University (40 Krasnaya street, Penza, Russia), E-mail: email@example.com
Background. The steppe marmot (Marmota bobak Müll.) is an important component of the Eurasian forest steppes. Intensive anthropogenic transformation of large areas in the course of economic activity (plowing of land, etc.) and spontaneous unregulated fishing led to the fact that at the turn of the XIX–XX centuries, the steppe marmot was almost exterminated in the territory of Russia. Currently, in Penza region, as a result of reintroduction, marmots live in the territory of two protected areas. The aim of the work is to assess the impact of marmot activity on the species composition and vegetation structure of the protected area “Ostrovtsovskaya forest-steppe”.
Materials and methods. A study was conducted in the summer of 2019 in the territory of the protected area “Ostrovtsovskaya forest-steppe”. Temporary (forage or protective) and permanent (brood or winter) burrows were mapped using a GPS Navigator. At the base of the burrows in the upper, middle, lower parts of the slope and at its foot, test areas (PP) of 1–2 m2 were laid. Complete geobotanical descriptions were carried out to identify the floristic composition directly at marmot burrows and away from them, indicating the abundance of species using generally accepted methods.
Results. In the territory of the protected area “Ostrovtsovskaya forest-steppe” over the past 6 years (since the settlement of marmots), 44 temporary burrows or temporary shelters and 1 permanent burrow have been marked in the settlement of marmots, all of them are connected by trails. The vegetation of the slopes inhabited by marmots is represented by meadow steppes: grass-gramineous, grass-stipa, gramineous-strawberry. 78 species of vascular plants were identified in the communities. The extent and nature of the impacts of marmot settlements on vegetation depend on the time and intensity of burrow use, as well as the stability of the plant communities themselves.
Conclusions. The degree and nature of impacts by temporary burrows of marmots can vary: from minimal disturbance (thinning of the cover), moderate – trampling/ loss of natural plant species and introduction of weeds, and to significant – complete change of species composition in agrocenoses. Near permanent burrows, the entire vegetation cover is completely trampled over a large area. The last to fall out are dense-core species (fescue, stipa). The introduction of weed species is also difficult due to high density of the soil.
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