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Animal Biodiversity and Conservation. Volume 37.2 (2014) Pages: 115-125

Effect of wild ungulate density on invertebrates in a Mediterranean ecosystem

Carpio, A. J., Castro-López, J., Guerrero-Casado, J. M., Ruiz-Aizpurua, L., Vicente, J., Tortosa, F. S.

DOI: https://doi.org/10.32800/abc.2014.37.0115

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Abstract

In recent decades, the abundance and distribution of certain big game species, particularly red deer (Cervus elaphus) and wild boar (Sus scrofa), have increased in south central Spain as a result of hunting management strategies. The high density of these ungulate species may affect the abundance of epigeous invertebrates. We tested the relationships between big game abundance and biodiversity, taxon richness, the biomass of invertebrates and their frequency on nine hunting estates and in comparison to ungulate exclusion areas. Ungulate exclusion itself affected invertebrate richness, since lower values were found in the open plots, whereas the highest differences in invertebrate diversity between fenced and open plots was found in areas with high wild boar density. Where wild boar densities were high, the number of invertebrates decreased, while where they were low, red deer had a positive effect on invertebrate abundance. Fenced plots thus seemed to provide refuge for invertebrates, particularly where wild boar were abundant. This study supports the idea that the structure of fauna communities is damaged by high density populations of ungulates, probably due to decreased food availability owing to overgrazing, modified conditions of ecological microniches and direct predation. However, the effects depended on the group of invertebrates, since saprophytic species could benefit from high ungulate abundance. Our findings reflect the need to control ungulate population density under Mediterranean conditions in south–western Europe and to implement ungulate exclusion plots.

Keywords

Biodiversity, Invertebrates, Overabundance, Red deer, Wild boar

Cite

Carpio, A. J., Castro-López, J., Guerrero-Casado, J. M., Ruiz-Aizpurua, L., Vicente, J., Tortosa, F. S., 2014. Effect of wild ungulate density on invertebrates in a Mediterranean ecosystem. Animal Biodiversity and Conservation, 37: 115-125, DOI: https://doi.org/10.32800/abc.2014.37.0115

Reception date:

18/02/2014

Acceptation date:

12/07/2014

Publication date:

12/12/2014

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