Human activity is increasingly altering the natural world. Yet the natural adaptability of most mammal species remains unknown. Seasonal and spatial influences on the diet of temperate carnivores tending towards omnivory are, particularly, poorly understood. The pine marten is one such species which in Ireland and Britain is of additional interest due to the recent recovery in its range and abundance from near collapse. We investigated diet of the pine marten on regional, national, and continental scales and with regard to seasonal and habitat variation. Habitat effects on diet were examined with regard to samples from deciduous woodland, coniferous forestry plantations, heath-coniferous matrices, and mixed habitats. Finally, we discuss the implications of dietary variation in the ecological role of the European pine marten in Ireland and elsewhere and consider how these may be affected by further environmental change. The diet of the pine marten differed significantly amongst all studies across its range, although it maintains the same approximate trophic niche breadth throughout. This plasticity may explain its recovery in an environment where resources are scarce, and underscores its status as an opportunistic species which is likely to be robust to environmental and habitat changes in the future.
Student thesis: Doctoral Thesis › Doctor of Philosophy