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Does riparian habitat condition influence mammalian carnivore abundance in Mediterranean ecosystems?

AuthorsMatos, Hugo M.; Santos, María J.; Palomares, Francisco ; Santos-Reis, Margarida
KeywordsMediterranean ecosystems
Riparian corridors
Species richness
Stream assessment protocol
Issue Date2009
CitationBiodiversity & conservation,18:373–386 (2009)
AbstractThe severe loss or degradation of riparian habitats has led to their impover- ishment and impaired function, which may have severe consequences on both the riparian habitats themselves and their associated biota, including mammalian carnivores. We selected 70 riparian habitat reaches to evaluate the condition of the riparian habitats in southern Portugal and their use by carnivores. These sites were assessed for riparian condition using the stream visual assessment protocol (SVAP) and surveyed for carnivore presence along the riparian zones and across the surrounding matrix landscape, both in the wet (winter) and the dry (summer) season. Results show that carnivore surveys adjacent to riparian habitats consistently had significantly higher species richness than the matrix habitats, in both sampling seasons. Carnivore relative abundance and relative abundance of stone marten, common genet and Egyptian mongoose also showed higher values in riparian habitats, with significant differences in at least one season. The Eurasian badger, on the other hand, showed higher relative abundance values in the landscape matrix, though differences were not significant. The SVAP index ranked about 83% riparian reaches as poor or fair condition, and species richness was significantly higher in fair condition reaches during the wet season. These results reflect the importance of riparian habitats in Mediterranean ecosystems for mammalian carnivores. However, the generalized poor condition of these habitats suggests that direct measures for riparian restoration could be appropriate. The preservation or improvement of riparian habitats would certainly benefit the mammalian carnivore populations and consequently their conservation
Publisher version (URL)http://dx.doi.org/10.1007/s10531-008-9493-2
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