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Phylogeography and genetic diversity of the red squirrel, Sciurus vulgaris in Europe, in relation to the range expansion of the American grey squirrel, Sciurus carolinensis


The invasion of the American grey squirrel, Sciurus cardinensis, into the range of the Eurasian red squirrel, Sciurus vulgaris, is threatening the latter species in large parts of Europe, particularly the UK and Northern Italy. Due to the ecological simila rity of the two species, which used to have non-overlapping distribution areas before they were brought together by human influence, their coming together relatively recently on an evolutionary time- scale challenges the limits of coexistence. As a consequ ence of the drammatic decline of the red squirrel in the last century, the species has been included into Appendix III of the Bern Convention and keeps being continuously discussed during the meetings of the Standing Commission of the Bern Convention. Desp ite that there is no doubt on the priority of Sciurus vulgaris in European research as well as conservation, an overall phylogeographic study is still missing. This means that although the species has been included in European nature conservation legislati on, the basic data for an effective conservation on a European-scale are still lacking. Information on a species' phylogeography, population structuring, genetic diversity and past population dynamics are essential for developing a framework for conservati on biology in Europe. Only if these basic data are given we can correctly identify the evolutionary significant units of our target species, which represent the only appropriate base for conservation management. In the project proposed here, we will theref ore employ molecular genetic techniques to trace the phylogeography of the red squirrel and ultimately identify conservation units of populations of the red squirrel and provide recommendations for its management in order to prevent further decline of Euro pean populations. We will assess genetic variation and differentiation of S. vulgaris populations in different parts of Europe with the final aim to assess if the #

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Via Ca Fornacetta 9
Ozzano Emilia