This paper describes the use of a spatially explicit population model (SEPM) to investigate the effects of different forest management strategies on a red squirrel conservation area. The study was based in woodland managed by Forest Enterprise, which manages 75 000 ha of woodlands in Northumberland, Co. Durham, Tyne and Wear, and east Cumbria. The forests contain the largest remaining red squirrel populations in northern England and the area of the study, Kidland Forest, is one of five key areas or refuges where red squirrel conservation is a priority. The SEPM integrates expert knowledge on red and grey squirrels, based on 10 years of fieldwork in the area and information from the scientific literature. We investigated the current tree species composition, distribution and proposed felling plans as well as the future restocking for Kidland Forest, an area of 2050 ha of predominantly conifer species. The assessment also included a proposed planting of 15 ha of oak and its likely consequences on grey squirrel population viability. These results were then applied to develop a forest design plan to ensure red squirrel persistence over the next rotation. Results indicated that red squirrels were at risk of extinction due to a drastic reduction in the availability of suitable habitats through clear-felling. Furthermore the proposed planting of 15 ha of oak could lead to a substantial grey squirrel population at Kidland once the trees matured and assuming that grey squirrels colonize the area. The felling profile was therefore revised, allocating a proportion of the tree crop on more wind-firm sites to long-term retentions. The approach adopted at Kidland illustrates how geographical information systems, expert knowledge on the threatened species and spatially explicit models can be integrated to assist forest managers in assessing the suitability of a site for red squirrel conservation.
- grey squirrels