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Liminana R.,Institute Investigacion en Recursos Cinegeticos IREC | Liminana R.,University of Alicante | Garcia J.T.,Institute Investigacion en Recursos Cinegeticos IREC | Gonzalez J.M.,Fundacion Migres | And 10 more authors.
European Journal of Wildlife Research | Year: 2012

Natal dispersal is an important component of bird ecology, plays a key role in many ecological and evolutionary processes, and has important conservation implications. Nevertheless, detailed knowledge on natal dispersal is still lacking in many bird species, especially raptors. We review and compile existing information from five tagging programmes of juvenile Montagu's harriers (Circus pygargus) in different Spanish regions, with PVC rings or wing tags, to provide an assessment of philopatry and natal dispersal of the species in Spain. Only 7% of all tagged harriers were observed as breeders in subsequent years. The percentage of philopatric (i. e. breeding within 10 km of the natal site) males and females was lower that 5%. Overall, there were no sexual differences in percentage of philopatric birds or dispersal distances, but we found study area differences. The low philopatry observed suggests a high capacity for natal dispersal in this species, for both sexes, and therefore high genetic mixing between populations. Differences in philopatry between study areas may be influenced by the different observation effort or detectability, or else reflect different philopatric strategies among populations. Finally, we found no significant differences in philopatry rate or dispersal distances related to tagging method, suggesting that tagging technique has a smaller effect than monitoring effort or observation ease on observation probability. Developing tagging programmes at a small scale and without procuring very large-scale and intensive subsequent monitoring is not worthwhile for evaluating philopatry and natal dispersal in this species. © 2011 Springer-Verlag.

Hernandez-Matias A.,University of Barcelona | Real J.,University of Barcelona | Moleon M.,University of Witwatersrand | Palma L.,University of Porto | And 13 more authors.
Ecological Monographs | Year: 2013

Population viability analysis (PVA) has become a basic tool of current conservation practice. However, if not accounted for properly, the uncertainties inherent to PVA predictions can decrease the reliability of this type of analysis. In the present study, we performed a PVA of the whole western European population (France, Portugal, and Spain) of the endangered Bonelli's Eagle (Aquila fasciata), in which we thoroughly explored the consequences of uncertainty in population processes and parameters on PVA predictions. First, we estimated key vital rates (survival, fertility, recruitment, and dispersal rates) using monitoring, ringing, and bibliographic data from the period 1990-2009 from 12 populations found throughout the studied geographic range. Second, we evaluated the uncertainty about model structure (i.e., the assumed processes that govern individual fates and population dynamics) by comparing the observed growth rates of the studied populations with model predictions for the same period. Third, using the model structures suggested in the previous step, we assessed the viability of both the local populations and the overall population. Finally, we analyzed the effects of model and parameter uncertainty on PVA predictions. Our results strongly support the idea that all local populations in western Europe belong to a single, spatially structured population operating as a source-sink system, whereby the populations in the south of the Iberian Peninsula act as sources and, thanks to dispersal, sustain all other local populations, which would otherwise decline. Predictions regarding population dynamics varied considerably, and models assuming more constrained dispersal predicted more pessimistic population trends than models assuming greater dispersal. Model predictions accounting for parameter uncertainty revealed a marked increase in the risk of population declines over the next 50 years. Sensitivity analyses indicated that adult and pre-adult survival are the chief vital rates regulating these populations, and thus, the conservation efforts aimed at improving these survival rates should be strengthened in order to guarantee the long-term viability of the European populations of this endangered species. Overall, the study provides a framework for the implementation of multi-site PVAs and highlights the importance of dispersal processes in shaping the population dynamics of long-lived birds distributed across heterogeneous landscapes. © 2013 by the Ecological Society of America.

Moleon M.,Empresa de Gestion Medioambiental Consejeria de Medio Ambiente | Moleon M.,University of Witwatersrand | Sanchez-Zapata J.A.,University Miguel Hernandez | Gil-Sanchez J.M.,Empresa de Gestion Medioambiental Consejeria de Medio Ambiente | And 3 more authors.
Oecologia | Year: 2012

How predators impact on prey population dynamics is still an unsolved issue for most wild predator-prey communities. When considering vertebrates, important concerns constrain a comprehensive understanding of the functioning of predator-prey relationships worldwide; e. g. studies simultaneously quantifying 'functional' and 'numerical responses' (i. e., the 'total response') are rare. The functional, the numerical, and the resulting total response (i. e., how the predator per capita intake, the population of predators and the total of prey eaten by the total predators vary with prey densities) are fundamental as they reveal the predator's ability to regulate prey population dynamics. Here, we used a multi-spatio-temporal scale approach to simultaneously explore the functional and numerical responses of a territorial predator (Bonelli's eagle Hieraaetus fasciatus) to its two main prey species (the rabbit Oryctolagus cuniculus and the red-legged partridge Alectoris rufa) during the breeding period in a Mediterranean system of south Spain. Bonelli's eagle responded functionally, but not numerically, to rabbit/partridge density changes. Type II, non-regulatory, functional responses (typical of specialist predators) offered the best fitting models for both prey. In the absence of a numerical response, Bonelli's eagle role as a regulating factor of rabbit and partridge populations seems to be weak in our study area. Simple (prey density-dependent) functional response models may well describe the short-term variation in a territorial predator's consumption rate in complex ecosystems. © 2011 Springer-Verlag.

Moleon M.,Empresa de Gestion Medioambiental Consejeria de Medio Ambiente | Moleon M.,University of Witwatersrand | Sanchez-Zapata J.A.,University Miguel Hernandez | Gil-Sanchez J.M.,Empresa de Gestion Medioambiental Consejeria de Medio Ambiente | And 3 more authors.
PLoS ONE | Year: 2011

Background: Predation may potentially lead to negative effects on both prey (directly via predators) and predators (indirectly via human persecution). Predation pressure studies are, therefore, of major interest in the fields of theoretical knowledge and conservation of prey or predator species, with wide ramifications and profound implications in human-wildlife conflicts. However, detailed works on this issue in highly valuable -in conservation terms- Mediterranean ecosystems are virtually absent. This paper explores the predator-hunting conflict by examining a paradigmatic, Mediterranean-wide (endangered) predator-two prey (small game) system. Methodology/Principal Findings: We estimated the predation impact ('kill rate' and 'predation rate', i.e., number of prey and proportion of the prey population eaten, respectively) of Bonelli's eagle Aquila fasciata on rabbit Oryctolagus cuniculus and red-legged partridge Alectoris rufa populations in two seasons (the eagle's breeding and non-breeding periods, 100 days each) in SE Spain. The mean estimated kill rate by the seven eagle reproductive units in the study area was c. 304 rabbits and c. 262 partridges in the breeding season, and c. 237 rabbits and c. 121 partridges in the non-breeding period. This resulted in very low predation rates (range: 0.3-2.5%) for both prey and seasons. Conclusions/Significance: The potential role of Bonelli's eagles as a limiting factor for rabbits and partridges at the population scale was very poor. The conflict between game profitability and conservation interest of either prey or predators is apparently very localised, and eagles, quarry species and game interests seem compatible in most of the study area. Currently, both the persecution and negative perception of Bonelli's eagle (the 'partridge-eating eagle' in Spanish) have a null theoretical basis in most of this area. © 2011 Moleón et al.

Moleon M.,University of Witwatersrand | Sebastian-Gonzalez E.,University Miguel Hernandez | Sebastian-Gonzalez E.,University of Sao Paulo | Sanchez-Zapata J.A.,University Miguel Hernandez | And 5 more authors.
Journal of Animal Ecology | Year: 2012

1.A long-standing question in ecology is how natural populations respond to a changing environment. Emergent optimal foraging theory-based models for individual variation go beyond the population level and predict how its individuals would respond to disturbances that produce changes in resource availability. 2.Evaluating variations in resource use patterns at the intrapopulation level in wild populations under changing environmental conditions would allow to further advance in the research on foraging ecology and evolution by gaining a better idea of the underlying mechanisms explaining trophic diversity. 3.In this study, we use a large spatio-temporal scale data set (western continental Europe, 1968-2006) on the diet of Bonelli's Eagle Aquila fasciata breeding pairs to analyse the predator trophic responses at the intrapopulation level to a prey population crash. In particular, we borrow metrics from studies on network structure and intrapopulation variation to understand how an emerging infectious disease [the rabbit haemorrhagic disease (RHD)] that caused the density of the eagle's primary prey (rabbit Oryctolagus cuniculus) to dramatically drop across Europe impacted on resource use patterns of this endangered raptor. 4.Following the major RHD outbreak, substantial changes in Bonelli's Eagle's diet diversity and organisation patterns at the intrapopulation level took place. Dietary variation among breeding pairs was larger after than before the outbreak. Before RHD, there were no clusters of pairs with similar diets, but significant clustering emerged after RHD. Moreover, diets at the pair level presented a nested pattern before RHD, but not after. 5.Here, we reveal how intrapopulation patterns of resource use can quantitatively and qualitatively vary, given drastic changes in resource availability. 6.For the first time, we show that a pathogen of a prey species can indirectly impact the intrapopulation patterns of resource use of an endangered predator. © 2012 British Ecological Society.

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