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What future for British red squirrels
- KENWARD, R.E., HOLM, J.L.
- Biological journal of the Linnean Society 1989 v.38 no.1 pp. 83-89
- Quercus, coniferous forests, conifers, crops, fruits, islands, squirrels, England, Scotland
- The geographic range of red squirrels contracted sharply in Britain during the 1940s arid 1950s, as increasingly large areas were colonized by the congeneric North American grey squirrel. Red squirrels remain common only on offshore islands, and in the large conifer forests of northern England and Scotland. The initial replacement of red squirrels was in arras dominated by oak woodland, probably because acorn crops are exploited less efficiently by red squirrels than by grey squirrels. Dirt studies have shown that acorns are digested less efficiently by the red squirrel, which occurs in conifers through most of its Eurasian range, than by the introduced grey squirrel, which is primarily a native of deciduous woodland. The red squirrel will probably be replaced in deciduous and mixed woodland throughout mainland Britain, and may eventually persist only in large areas of conifers which arc far from oak trees. The conservation of red squirrels on islands is therefore particularly important for their survival, perhaps making it worthwhile to create new island populations where they do not at present exist.