Grazing, abandonment and frequent mowing influence the persistence of the steppe marmot, Marmota bobak

  • Galina Savchenko
  • Vladimir Ronkin
Keywords: fattening, growing season, regrowth, rodent, water content


The goals of the study were to illustrate how parameters of steppe marmot settlements change after abandonment of livestock grazing, to evaluate differences in vegetation characteristics between grazed and abandoned habitats, to find the links between these characteristics and the persistence of marmot settlements and to establish whether it is possible to maintain the food base of marmots by applying frequently repeated mowing. Data were collected in 1991–2016 in the steppe marmot (Marmota bobak) settlement in the Regional Landscape Park “The Velykyi Burluk-Steppe” (Kharkiv Region, Northeastern Ukraine). We found that grazing prolongs the period of active plant growth and supports a regrowth during periods of intensive feeding of all age groups of marmots. In abandoned habitats the vegetation period ended before the end of active feeding of reproductive females and juveniles. Tis resulted in lower reproductive success, which determines a decrease in the population and may in the future result in a larger decline of settlements. Frequently repeated mowing by a lawnmower at a cutting height of 6–9 cm prolongs the vegetation period and maintains a water content in the plants similar to that of grazed habitats throughout the active season of steppe marmots.


Download data is not yet available.


Abaturov, B. D. 2006: Pastbishchniy tip funktsionirovaniya stepnykh i pustynnykh ekosistem (Grazing type of functioning of steppe and desert ecosystems). Ouspekhi Sovremennoy Biologii 126(5): 435–447. [In Russian].

Armitage, K. B. 2013: Climate change and the conservation of marmots. Natural Science 5(5A): 36–43.

Arnold, W. 1990: Te evolution of marmot sociality: I. Why disperse late? II. Costs and benefts of joint hibernation. Behavioral Ecology and Sociobiology 27: 229–246.

Baranova, A., Schickhoff, U., Wang, S. & Jin, M. 2016: Mountain pastures of Qilian Shan: plant communities, grazing impact and degradation status (Gansu province, NW China). Hacquetia 15(2): 21–36.

Bassano, B., Peracino, V., Pecacino, V. & Montacchini, F. 1996: Diet composition and feeding habitats in a family group of alpine marmot (Marmota marmota) – preliminary data. In: Le Berre, M., Ramousse, R. & Le Guelte, L. (eds.): Biodiversity in Marmots. International marmot Network, Moscow, Lyon, pp. 135–140.

Bibikov, D. I. 1989: Surki (Te Marmots). Agroprom Press, Moscow, 255 pp. [In Russian].

Blumstein, D. T. & Foggin, J. M. 1997: Effect of vegetative variation on weaning success, overwinter survival, and social group density in golden marmots (Marmota caudata aurea). Journal of Zoology, London 243: 57–69.

Chovankova, B. & Soltesova, A. 1988: Trophic base and nutritional activity of the alpine marmot (Marmota marmota latirostris Kratochvil, 1961). Zbornic prac o TANAP-e 28: 71–135.

Cizek, O., Zamecnik, J., Tropek, R., Kocarek, P., & Konvicka, M. 2012: Diversifcation of mowing regime increases arthropods diversity in species-poor cultural hay meadows. Journal of Insect Conservation 16(2): 215–226.

Dengler, J., Janišová, M., Török, P. & Wellstein, C. 2014: Biodiversity of Palaearctic grasslands: a synthesis. Agriculture, Ecosystems & Environment 182: 1–14.

Frase, B. A. & Armitage, K. B. 1989: Yellow-bellied marmots are generalist herbivores. Ethology Ecology & Evolution 1: 353–366.

Herrero, J., Garsia-Gonzalez, R. & Garcia-Serrano, A. 2002: Research on the alpine marmot (Marmota marmota) in the Spanish Pyrenees. In: Armitage, K.B. & Rumiantsev, V. Yu. (eds.): Holarctic marmots as a factor of biodiversity. ABF P. H., Moscow, pp. 190–197.

Lenti Boero, D. 1996: Space and resource use in Alpine marmots (Marmota marmota L.). In: Le Berre, M., Ramousse, R. & Le Guelte, L. (eds.): Biodiversity in Marmots. International Marmot Network, Moscow, Lyon, pp. 175–180.

Lenti Boero, D. 2001: Occupation of hibernacula, seasonal activity, and body size in a high altitude colony of Alpine marmots (Marmota marmota). Ethology Ecology & Evolution 13: 209–223.

Mashkin, V. I. 1997: Yevropeyskiy baybak: ekologiya, sokhraneniye i ispol’zovaniye (Te European bobak: Ecology, Conservation and Use). Kirov Regional Press, Kirov, 160 pp. [In Russian].

Massemin, S., Gibault, C., Ramousse, R. & Butet, A. 1996: First data on the alpine marmot (Marmota marmota) diet. Mammalia 60(3): 351–361.

Mazalová, M., Šipoš, J., Rada, S., Kašák, J., Šarapatka, B., & Kuras, T. 2015: Responses of grassland arthropods to various biodiversityfriendly management practices: Is there a compromise? European Journal of Entomology 112(4): 734–746.

Melcher, J. C., Armitage, K. B. & Porter, W. P. 1989: Energy allocation by yellow-bellied marmots. Physiological Zoology 62: 429–448.

Mérő, T. O., Bocz, R., Polyák, L., Horváth, G. & Lengyel, S. 2015: Local habitat management and landscape-scale restoration influence small-mammal communities in grasslands. Animal Conservation 18: 442–450.

Nikol`skii, A. A. & Savchenko, G. A. 1999: Structure of family groups and space use by steppe marmots (Marmota bobac): preliminary results. Vestnik Zoologii 33(3): 67–72.

Perrin, C., Allainé, D. & Le Berre, M. 1993: Socio-spatial organization and activity distribution of the alpine marmot Marmota marmota: preliminary results. Ethology 93: 21–30.

Polchaninova, N. Yu. 2004: Effect of hay-mowing on spider communities of the meadow steppes of the Central forest-steppe (Russia and Ukraine). Arthropoda Selecta. Special Issue No1 (Proceedings of the 21st European Colloquium of Arachnology, St.- Petersburg, 4-9 August 2003): 261–273.

Polchaninova, N., Savchenko, G., Drogvalenko, A., Ronkin, V. & Shabanov, D. 2016: Te impact of cattle grazing on cursorial spiders (Aranei) and true bugs (Heteroptera) in steppe gullies of northeastern Ukraine. Agriculture, Ecosystems & Environment 234: 65–71.17/1 • 2018, 25–34

Ronkin, V. I. & Savchenko, G. A. 2000: Adaptability of habitats for Marmota bobak (Rodentia, Sciuridae) related to plant cover structure. Zoologicheskii Zhurnal 79(10): 1229–1234. [In Russian].

Ronkin, V. I. & Savchenko, G. A. 2004: Effect of cattle grazing on habitats for the steppe marmot (Marmota bobak) in north-eastern Ukraine. Vestnik Zoologii 38(1): 55–60.

Ronkin, V. & Savchenko, G. 2016: Flora and vegetation of dry grasslands of Northeastern Ukraine, and problems of diversity conservation. Hacquetia 15(2): 49–62.

Ronkin, V., Savchenko, G. & Tokarsky, V. 2009: Te place of the steppe marmot in steppe ecosystems of Ukraine: An historical approach. Ethology Ecology & Evolution 21: 277–284.

Ronkin, V. I. & Tokarsky, V. A. 1993: Qualitative and quantitative assessment of feeding habits of bobak, Marmota bobak, and long-tailed marmot, M. caudata (Rodentia, Sciuridae) in captivity. Zoologicheskii Zhurnal. 72(2): 93–100. [In Russian].

Schwartz, O. A. & Armitage, K. B. 2002: Correlations between weather factors and life-history traits of yellow-bellied marmots. In: Armitage, K. B. & Rumiantsev, V. Yu. (eds.): Holarctic marmots as a factor of biodiversity. ABF P. H., Moscow, pp. 345–357.

Török, P., Valkó, O., Deák, B., Kelemen, A. & Tóthmérész, B. 2014: Traditional cattle grazing in a mosaic alkali landscape: Effects on grassland biodiversity along a moisture gradient. PLoS ONE 9 (5): e97095.

Török, P., Valkó, O., Deák, B., Kelemen, A., Tóth, E. & Tóthmérész, B. 2016: Managing for species composition or diversity? Pastoral and free grazing systems in alkali steppes. Agriculture, Ecosystems & Environment 234: 23–30.

Valkó, O., Zmihorski, M., Biurrun, I., Loos, J., Labadessa, R. & Venn, S. 2016: Ecology and Conservation of Steppes and Semi-natural Grasslands. Hacquetia 15(2): 5–14.

Vassilev, K., Pedashenko, H., Nikolov, S. C., Apostolova, I. & Dengler, J. 2011: Effect of land abandonment on the vegetation of upland semi-natural grasslands in the Western Balkan Mts., Bulgaria. Plant Biosystems 145: 654–665.

Yarnell, R. W., Scott, D. M., Chimimba C. T. & Metcalfe, D. J. 2007: Untangling the roles of fre, grazing and rainfall on small mammal communities in grassland ecosystems. Oecologia 154: 387–402.

How to Cite
SavchenkoG. and RonkinV. (2018) “Grazing, abandonment and frequent mowing influence the persistence of the steppe marmot, Marmota bobak”, Hacquetia, 17(1). Available at: (Accessed: 10July2020).