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Ashrafi S.,University of Bern | Ashrafi S.,University of Tehran | Rutishauser M.,University of Bern | Ecker K.,Swiss Federal Institute of forest | And 5 more authors.
Biodiversity and Conservation | Year: 2013

Assessing the ecological requirements of species coexisting within a community is an essential requisite for developing sound conservation action. A particularly interesting question is what mechanisms govern the stable coexistence of cryptic species within a community, i.e. species that are almost impossible to distinguish. Resource partitioning theory predicts that cryptic species, like other sympatric taxa, will occupy distinct ecological niches. This prediction is widely inferred from eco-morphological studies. A new cryptic long-eared bat species, Plecotus macrobullaris, has been recently discovered in the complex of two other species present in the European Alps, with even evidence for a few mixed colonies. This discovery poses challenges to bat ecologists concerned with planning conservation measures beyond roost protection. We therefore tested whether foraging habitat segregation occurred among the three cryptic Plecotus bat species in Switzerland by radiotracking 24 breeding female bats (8 of each species). We compared habitat features at locations visited by a bat versus random locations within individual home ranges, applying mixed effects logistic regression. Distinct, species-specific habitat preferences were revealed. P. auritus foraged mostly within traditional orchards in roost vicinity, with a marked preference for habitat heterogeneity. P. austriacus foraged up to 4.7 km from the roost, selecting mostly fruit tree plantations, hedges and tree lines. P. macrobullaris preferred patchy deciduous and mixed forests with high vertical heterogeneity in a grassland dominated-matrix. These species-specific habitat preferences should inform future conservation programmes. They highlight the possible need of distinct conservation measures for species that look very much alike. © 2013 Springer Science+Business Media Dordrecht.


Margalida A.,University of Bern | Margalida A.,Bearded Vulture Study and Protection Group | Carrete M.,Pablo De Olavide University | Hegglin D.,Stiftung Pro Bartgeier | And 3 more authors.
PLoS ONE | Year: 2013

After the quasi-extinction of much of the European vertebrate megafauna during the last few centuries, many reintroduction projects seek to restore decimated populations. However, the future of numerous species depends on the management scenarios of metapopulations where the flow of individuals can be critical to ensure their viability. This is the case of the bearded vulture Gypaetus barbatus, an Old World, large body-sized and long-lived scavenger living in mountain ranges. Although persecution in Western Europe restrained it to the Pyrenees, the species is nowadays present in other mountains thanks to reintroduction projects. We examined the movement patterns of pre-adult non-breeding individuals born in the wild population of the Pyrenees (n = 9) and in the reintroduced populations of the Alps (n = 24) and Andalusia (n = 13). Most birds were equipped with GPS-GSM radio transmitters, which allowed accurate determination of individual dispersal patterns. Two estimators were considered: i) step length (i.e., the distance travelled per day by each individual, calculated considering only successive days); and ii) total dispersal distance (i.e., the distance travelled between each mean daily location and the point of release). Both dispersal estimators showed a positive relationship with age but were also highly dependent on the source population, birds in Andalusia and Alps moving farther than in Pyrenees. Future research should confirm if differences in dispersal distances are the rule, in which case the dynamics of future populations would be strongly influenced. In summary, our findings highlight that inter-population differences can affect the flow of individuals among patches (a key aspect to ensure the viability of the European metapopulation of the endangered bearded vulture), and thus should be taken into account when planning reintroduction programs. This result also raises questions about whether similar scenarios may occur in other restoration projects of European megafauna. © 2013 Margalida et al.


Wibbelt G.,Leibniz Institute for Zoo and Wildlife Research | Kurth A.,Robert Koch Institute | Hellmann D.,University of Oldenburg | Weishaar M.,Bat Conservation Working Group | And 10 more authors.
Emerging Infectious Diseases | Year: 2010

White-nose syndrome is an emerging disease in North America that has caused substantial declines in hibernating bats. A recently identified fungus (Geomyces destructans) causes skin lesions that are characteristic of this disease. Typical signs of this infection were not observed in bats in North America before white-nose syndrome was detected. However, unconfirmed reports from Europe indicated white fungal growth on hibernating bats without associated deaths. To investigate these differences, hibernating bats were sampled in Germany, Switzerland, and Hungary to determine whether G. destructans is present in Europe. Microscopic observations, fungal culture, and genetic analyses of 43 samples from 23 bats indicated that 21 bats of 5 species in 3 countries were colonized by G. destructans. We hypothesize that G. destructans is present throughout Europe and that bats in Europe may be more immunologically or behaviorally resistant to G. destructans than their congeners in North America because they potentially coevolved with the fungus.


Fontana S.,Swiss Federal Institute of forest | Fontana S.,University of Basel | Sattler T.,Swiss Federal Institute of forest | Sattler T.,University of Bern | And 3 more authors.
Landscape and Urban Planning | Year: 2011

Urbanization is a fundamental environmental change, today happening at accelerated speed worldwide. Despite the strong and permanent human impact, urban biodiversity has generally proved to be surprisingly high. Quantitative information on the effect of management actions on biodiversity is often lacking but is an indispensable basis for decisions by urban planners and managers. We therefore quantified key urban variables to predict changes in avian biodiversity when their urban habitat is modified. We analysed species richness, diversity (Simpson index) and community composition of 63 bird species with reference to major urban environmental gradients at 96 sampling points in three Swiss cities. Best explanatory models were selected from candidate models following information theory, and their respective predictions were averaged based on AICc-weights. Bird species richness and diversity are negatively affected by increasing fractions of sealed area or buildings, while increasing vegetation structures, in particular trees, show positive effects. Our models predict an increase from 13 species in the absence of trees to 20 species with 46% tree cover (+54%). Coniferous trees help to maximize bird species richness, with the models predicting an increase from 14 species at sites with only deciduous woody plants to 20 species (+43%) at places with equal representation of coniferous and deciduous plants. While the analysis of the Simpson index did not show any influence of the coniferous and broadleaf woody plants mixture, partial redundancy analysis revealed such an influence on bird community composition, highlighting the importance to consider several measures when analyzing biodiversity. © 2011 Elsevier B.V.


Kistler C.,University of Zurich | Hegglin D.,SWILD Urban Ecology and Wildlife Research | Wurbel H.,Justus Liebig University | Konig B.,University of Zurich
Applied Animal Behaviour Science | Year: 2011

Information about the welfare and husbandry of pet and laboratory fish is scarce although millions of fish are sold in pet shops and used in laboratory research every year. Inadequate housing conditions can cause behavioural problems also in fish since they are complex animals with sophisticated behaviour. In this study, we investigated the influence of environmental complexity on compartment preference and behaviour in zebrafish (Danio rerio) and checker barbs (Puntius oligolepis). For the preference test, large aquaria were divided by two semi-transparent walls of Plexiglas into an empty compartment, a structured compartment enriched with plants and clay pots, and a smaller compartment in-between, where food was provided. For observation, the empty and structured compartments were divided into six zones of similar size by defining three vertical layers and two horizontal areas (back vs. front area). Seven groups of six to nine zebrafish and seven groups of seven or eight checker barbs were observed on four days each (within a time period of ten days) to assess compartment use and activity, and to assess behavioural diversity and use of zones within compartments. Both zebrafish and checker barbs showed a significant preference for the structured compartment. Nevertheless, in neither species did behavioural diversity differ between the empty and structured compartment. Zebrafish used all zones in both compartments to the same extent. Checker barbs, however, used the structured compartment more evenly than the empty compartment, where they mainly used the lower and middle zones. These results suggest that zebrafish and checker barbs have a preference for complex environments. Furthermore, they indicate that the behavioural and ecological needs of fish may vary depending on species, and recommendations for husbandry should be specified at species level. © 2011 Elsevier B.V.

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