Modeling spatio-temporal activity dynamics of the small relict marsupial Dromiciops gliroides
VAZQUEZ, M. SOLEDAD; SCHENONE, LUCA; RODRIGUEZ-CABAL, MARIANO A.; AMICO, GUILLERMO C.
Spatial and temporal heterogeneity can affect animal activity patterns under environmental conditions that fluctuate over time and space. The activity timing and habitat structure are essential components of the animals´ choices. Here we studied the spatio-temporal activity dynamics of an arboreal marsupial (Dromiciops gliroides) with a key ecological role, endemic to the Andean Patagonian forest. Using camera traps and live traps, we determined temporal variations and the effect of the spatial variables at the micro (habitat structure)- and macro (forest type and geographic location)-scales on the activity patterns of D. gliroides. We built a hierarchical regression model to accommodate variation at both temporal and spatial levels. At a temporal level, we found that D. gliroides was affected by seasonality, increasing their activity toward the end of the summer and the beginning of autumn. At a spatial level, habitat structure was extremely important for this marsupial, particularly shrub cover which positively affected D. gliroides activity. Behavioral adjustments that we documented may be driven by differences in resource availability or predator avoidance. These findings help to understand the mechanisms modulating the activity of D. gliroides, essential for the conservation of this species with an ecological role that allows extended positive consequences to the whole forest community. Our results further support the importance of understory conservation for the survival of this species and warn about the negative consequences of habitat degradation.