Mortelliti’s small mammal research featured in Anthropocene Magazine

Anthropocene Magazine featured research on small mammals by Alessio Mortelliti, an assistant professor of wildlife habitat ecology at the University of Maine, in an article about helping forests adapt to climate change. “We cannot take for granted that animals will disperse any random seeds,” that they find at the edge of an expanding range, said Mortelliti. “The way in which this interaction subsequently unfolds could have dramatic consequences, and may play a major role in determining which species will successfully expand.” Mortelliti and colleagues conducted a study of 18 plant species expected to migrate further north in the near future, placing seeds of those plants beside those of familiar local species in 131 locations throughout Acadia National Park. Local small mammals found the novel seeds appetizing and sometimes even preferred them, according to the article. And some of the seeds were dropped or buried and forgotten, with one-third ending up in places that would facilitate germination and growth. Small mammals and other seed dispersers should be included in models designed to predict plant migrations because of their crucial role in the process, according to Mortelliti. “People hoping to nourish future forests might regard these creatures as partners in conservation,” the article states.