|Town/Region||Besna Kobila Mountain , Dukat Mountain , Stara Planina Mountain, Vardenik Mountain , Vlasina Plateau|
|Date||10 May 2016|
The European ground squirrel (Spermophilus citellus, EGS) is endemic species to central and south-eastern Europe. The species inhabits short-grass steppes, dry meadows and pastures. As a consequence of fragmentation and loss of habitats, the EGS experience a dramatic decline in population numbers throughout its whole range, and nowadays the species is categorized as “vulnerable” by IUCN, and included in Annexes II and IV of the Habitats and Species Directive.
Despite the fact that the EGS is regarded as a strictly protected species by Serbian law, the complete list of EGS habitats is missing and the majority of known populations are in danger as they are outside of protected areas. Especially vulnerable are the rare mountain populations from the east and southeast of Serbia which have already been isolated on mountain tops for a long period of time, and which are additionally affected by withering away of the livestock grazing. Unlike lowland populations from the northern part of Serbia, which have been quite well studied during the last several years, the data about the mountain populations are still scarce and outdated – the presence of just two populations has been confirmed until now.
The main aims of this project are:
- To collect data about current distribution of mountain populations of EGS in Serbia;
- To estimate the size of occupied habitat patches;
- To estimate population size of all recorded populations;
- To assess the habitat conditions (plant species composition, height of vegetation cover, flood risk etc.);
- To provide DNA samples for future genetic analyses which will give important information about genetic diversity, effects of inbreeding and the degree of genetic differentiation among remaining mountain populations.
- To raise public awareness about the importance of conservation and protection of this endangered species, and restoration of its habitat.
These data will be used for development of an action plan and future protection of EGS in Serbia. Moreover, the map of actual distribution of EGS populations, the population sizes and the size of habitats are very important information that will be used for building of Natura 2000 network in Serbia.
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