Disentangling the effects of habitat, connectivity and interspecific competition in the range expansion of exotic and native ungulates
Wild medium-sized ungulate populations are recovering in many countries of the Northern Hemisphere due to abandonment of rural areas but also due to the translocation of native and exotic ungulates for game hunting.
To assess the role of landscape connectivity, habitat suitability and interspecific interactions driving the simultaneous range expansion of two wild ungulates, one native (Iberian ibex, Capra pyrenaica) and one exotic species (Barbary sheep, Ammotragus lervia), in southeastern Spain.
We reconstructed the expansion process of the Iberian ibex and the Barbary sheep in southeastern Spain for the period 1975–2009 by means of Local Ecological Knowledge and tested the role of habitat suitability, landscape connectivity and interspecific competition during the expansion process by means of GLMM. Habitat suitability was assessed by means of ecological niche modeling and landscape connectivity was represented by competing resistance surface dispersal models.
Our results show that at the landscape scale both species are ecologically very similar, although the Iberian ibex is more specialized in less transformed landscapes. Landscape connectivity was the main driver of the colonization process, followed by habitat suitability. From a connectivity point of view, both species showed a coarse perception of the landscape, recognizing three main use types: natural, agricultural and human. Major linear infrastructures do not affect the colonization process. Our colonization models also suggest a negative interaction of the Iberian ibex on the Barbary sheep.
The exotic Barbary sheep and the native Iberian ibex are two ungulate species very similar ecologically whose simultaneous expansion process in southeastern Spain are driven by landscape connectivity followed by habitat suitability. In addition, the Iberian ibex affects negatively the colonization ability of the Barbary sheep. Overall, our work deepens our understanding on two pressing issues simultaneously: (i) controls of the range expansion of ungulates at the landscape scale and (ii) how a native and an introduced species interact during their expansion process.
KeywordsRange expansion Capra pyrenica Ammotragus lervia Iberian ibex, Aoudad Interspecific competition Landscape resistance
We would like to acknowledge the collaboration of the shepherds who kindly answered our questions. Sergio Eguía, Eugenio Noguera, Francisco Botella, Andrés Giménez and Roberto Pascual for their support and collaboration. This work was partially funded by Projects CGL2012-40013-C02-01/02, CGL2015-66966-C2-1-2-R, MINECO/FEDER, EU. To the memory of Miguel Angel Sánchez, a pioneer in the study of wild ungulates in SE Spain.
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