ResearchPad - trophic-interactions https://www.researchpad.co Default RSS Feed en-us © 2020 Newgen KnowledgeWorks <![CDATA[A biological control model to manage the vector and the infection of <i>Xylella fastidiosa</i> on olive trees]]> https://www.researchpad.co/article/elastic_article_11237 Xylella fastidiosa pauca ST53 is the bacterium responsible for the Olive Quick Decline Syndrome that has killed millions of olive trees in Southern Italy. A recent work demonstrates that a rational integration of vector and transmission control measures, into a strategy based on chemical and physical control means, can manage Xylella fastidiosa invasion and impact below an acceptable economic threshold. In the present study, we propose a biological alternative to the chemical control action, which involves the predetermined use of an available natural enemy of Philaenus spumarius, i.e., Zelus renardii, for adult vector population and infection biocontrol. The paper combines two different approaches: a laboratory experiment to test the predation dynamics of Zelus renardii on Philaenus spumarius and its attitude as candidate for an inundation strategy; a simulated experiment of inundation, to preliminary test the efficacy of such strategy, before eventually proceeding to an in-field experimentation. With this double-fold approach we show that an inundation strategy with Zelus renardii has the potential to furnish an efficient and “green” solution to Xylella fastidiosa invasion, with a reduction of the pathogen incidence below 10%. The biocontrol model presented here could be promising for containing the impact and spread of Xylella fastidiosa, after an in-field validation of the inundation technique. Saving the fruit orchard, the production and the industry in susceptible areas could thus become an attainable goal, within comfortable parameters for sustainability, environmental safety, and effective plant health protection in organic orchard management.

]]>
<![CDATA[Effects of scent lure on camera trap detections vary across mammalian predator and prey species]]> https://www.researchpad.co/article/elastic_article_7840 Camera traps are a unique survey tool used to monitor a wide variety of mammal species. Camera trap (CT) data can be used to estimate animal distribution, density, and behaviour. Attractants, such as scent lures, are often used in an effort to increase CT detections; however, the degree which the effects of attractants vary across species is not well understood. We investigated the effects of scent lure on mammal detections by comparing detection rates between 404 lured and 440 unlured CT stations sampled in Alberta, Canada over 120 day survey periods between February and August in 2015 and 2016. We used zero-inflated negative binomial generalized linear mixed models to test the effect of lure on detection rates for a) all mammals, b) six functional groups (all predator species, all prey, large carnivores, small carnivores, small mammals, ungulates), and c) four varied species of management interest (fisher, Pekania pennanti; gray wolf, Canis lupus; moose, Alces alces; and Richardson’s ground squirrel; Urocitellus richardsonii). Mammals were detected at 800 of the 844 CTs, with nearly equal numbers of total detections at CTs with (7110) and without (7530) lure, and variable effects of lure on groups and individual species. Scent lure significantly increased detections of predators as a group, including large and small carnivore sub-groups and fisher specifically, but not of gray wolf. There was no effect of scent lure on detections of prey species, including the small mammal and ungulate sub-groups and moose and Richardson’s ground squirrel specifically. We recommend that researchers explicitly consider the variable effects of scent lure on CT detections across species when designing, interpreting, or comparing multi-species surveys. Additional research is needed to further quantify variation in species responses to scent lures and other attractants, and to elucidate the effect of attractants on community-level inferences from camera trap surveys.

]]>
<![CDATA[Wing morphology predicts individual niche specialization in <i>Pteronotus mesoamericanus</i> (Mammalia: Chiroptera)]]> https://www.researchpad.co/article/elastic_article_7639 Morphological variation between individuals can increase niche segregation and decrease intraspecific competition when heterogeneous individuals explore their environment in different ways. Among bat species, wing shape correlates with flight maneuverability and habitat use, with species that possess broader wings typically foraging in more cluttered habitats. However, few studies have investigated the role of morphological variation in bats for niche partitioning at the individual level. To determine the relationship between wing shape and diet, we studied a population of the insectivorous bat species Pteronotus mesoamericanus in the dry forest of Costa Rica. Individual diet was resolved using DNA metabarcoding, and bat wing shape was assessed using geometric morphometric analysis. Inter-individual variation in wing shape showed a significant relationship with both dietary dissimilarity based on Bray-Curtis estimates, and nestedness derived from an ecological network. Individual bats with broader and more rounded wings were found to feed on a greater diversity of arthropods (less nested) in comparison to individuals with triangular and pointed wings (more nested). We conclude that individual variation in bat wing morphology can impact foraging efficiency leading to the observed overall patterns of diet specialization and differentiation within the population.

]]>
<![CDATA[Comparing two measures of phenological synchrony in a predator–prey interaction: Simpler works better]]> https://www.researchpad.co/article/N8db72726-4e07-4cdb-a984-0b220a145e6f

Abstract

  1. Global climate change has sparked a vast research effort into the demographic and evolutionary consequences of mismatches between consumer and resource phenology. Many studies have used the difference in peak dates to quantify phenological synchrony (match in dates, MD), but this approach has been suggested to be inconclusive, since it does not incorporate the temporal overlap between the phenological distributions (match in overlap, MO).

  2. We used 24 years of detailed data on the phenology of a predator–prey system, the great tit (Parus major) and the main food for its nestlings, caterpillars, to estimate MD and MO at the population and brood levels. We compared the performance of both metrics on two key demographic parameters: offspring recruitment probability and selection on the timing of reproduction.

  3. Although MD and MO correlated quadratically as expected, MD was a better predictor for both offspring recruitment and selection on timing than MO. We argue—and verify through simulations—that this is because quantifying MO has to be based on nontrivial, difficult‐to‐verify assumptions that likely render MO too inaccurate as a proxy for food availability in practice.

  4. Our results have important implications for the allocation of research efforts in long‐term population studies in highly seasonal environments.

]]>
<![CDATA[Host-parasite interaction explains variation in the prevalence of avian haemosporidians at the community level]]> https://www.researchpad.co/article/5c897744d5eed0c4847d2876

Parasites are a selective force that shape host community structure and dynamics, but host communities can also influence parasitism. Understanding the dual nature from host-parasite interactions can be facilitated by quantifying the variation in parasite prevalence among host species and then comparing that variation to other ecological factors that are known to also shape host communities. Avian haemosporidian parasites (e.g. Plasmodium and Haemoproteus) are abundant and widespread representing an excellent model for the study of host-parasite interactions. Several geographic and environmental factors have been suggested to determine prevalence of avian haemosporidians in bird communities. However, it remains unknown whether host and parasite traits, represented by phylogenetic distances among species and degree of specialization in host-parasite relationships, can influence infection status. The aims of this study were to analyze factors affecting infection status in a bird community and to test whether the degree of parasite specialization on their hosts is determined by host traits. Our statistical analyses suggest that infection status is mainly determined by the interaction between host species and parasite lineages where tolerance and/or susceptibility to parasites plays an essential role. Additionally, we found that although some of the parasite lineages infected a low number of bird individuals, the species they infected were distantly related and therefore the parasites themselves should not be considered typical host specialists. Infection status was higher for generalist than for specialist parasites in some, but not all, host species. These results suggest that detected prevalence in a species mainly results from the interaction between host immune defences and parasite exploitation strategies wherein the result of an association between particular parasite lineages and particular host species is idiosyncratic.

]]>
<![CDATA[Population density and temperature correlate with long-term trends in somatic growth rates and maturation schedules of herring and sprat]]> https://www.researchpad.co/article/5c89775ed5eed0c4847d2b47

We examine long-term trends in the average growth rates and maturation schedules of herring and sprat populations using survey data collected from the North Sea and west of Scotland since the 1960s and 1980s respectively. Otolith age data and maturity data are used to calculate time series of mean lengths at age, von Bertalanffy growth parameters, and probabilistic maturation reaction norms. As the growth and maturation of fish is known to be influenced by temperature and stock abundances, we account for these variables using Generalised Additive Models. Each of the herring populations displayed either steady declines in mean length across multiple age groups, or declines in length followed years later by some recovery. Depending on region, lengths at age of sprat increased or decreased over time. Varying temporal trends in maturation propensity at age and length were observed across herring populations. Many of the trends in growth rate and maturation were correlated to population abundance and/or temperature. In general, abundance is shown to be negatively correlated to growth rates in herring and sprat, and positively correlated with maturation propensity in herring. Temperature is also shown to be correlated to growth and maturation, and although the effect is consistent within species, the temperature effects differ between herring and sprat. This study provides detailed information about long-term trends in growth and maturation, which is lacking for some of these pelagic stocks, especially in the west of Scotland.

]]>
<![CDATA[Short-term fish predation destroys resilience of zooplankton communities and prevents recovery of phytoplankton control by zooplankton grazing]]> https://www.researchpad.co/article/5c706772d5eed0c4847c7038

Planktivorous fish predation directly affects zooplankton biomass, community and size structure, and may indirectly induce a trophic cascade to phytoplankton. However, it is not clear how quickly the zooplankton community structure and the cascading effects on phytoplankton recover to the unaffected state (i.e. resilience) once short-term predation by fish stops. The resilience has implications for the ecological quality and restoration measures in aquatic ecosystems. To assess the short-term zooplankton resilience against fish predation, we conducted a mesocosm experiment consisting of 10 enclosures, 6 with fish and 4 without fish. Plankton communities from a natural lake were used to establish phytoplankton and zooplankton in the mesocosms. High biomasses (about 20 g wet mass m-3) of juvenile planktivorous fish (perch, Perca fluviatilis) were allowed to feed on zooplankton in fish enclosures for four days. Thereafter, we removed fish and observed the recovery of the zooplankton community and its cascading effect on trophic interactions in comparison with no fish enclosures for four weeks. Short-term fish predation impaired resilience in zooplankton community by modifying community composition, as large zooplankton, such as calanoids, decreased just after fish predation and did not re-appear afterwards, whereas small cladocerans and rotifers proliferated. Total zooplankton biomass increased quickly within two weeks after fish removal, and at the end even exceeded the biomass measured before fish addition. Despite high biomass, the dominance of small zooplankton released phytoplankton from grazer control in fish enclosures. Accordingly, the zooplankton community did not recover from the effect of fish predation, indicating low short-term resilience. In contrast, in no fish enclosures without predation disturbance, a high zooplankton:phytoplankton biomass ratio accompanied by low phytoplankton yield (Chlorophyll-a:Total phosphorus ratio) reflected phytoplankton control by zooplankton over the experimental period. Comprehensive views on short and long-term resilience of zooplankton communities are essential for restoration and management strategies of aquatic ecosystems to better predict responses to global warming, such as higher densities of planktivorous fish.

]]>
<![CDATA[Moderate plant water stress improves larval development, and impacts immunity and gut microbiota of a specialist herbivore]]> https://www.researchpad.co/article/5c76fe62d5eed0c484e5b9b6

While host plant drought is generally viewed as a negative phenomenon, its impact on insect herbivores can vary largely depending on the species involved and on the intensity of the drought. Extreme drought killing host plants can clearly reduce herbivore fitness, but the impact of moderate host plant water stress on insect herbivores can vary, and may even be beneficial. The populations of the Finnish Glanville fritillary butterfly (Melitaea cinxia) have faced reduced precipitation in recent years, with impacts even on population dynamics. Whether the negative effects of low precipitation are solely due to extreme desiccation killing the host plant or whether moderate drought reduces plant quality for the larvae remains unknown. We assessed the performance of larvae fed on moderately water-stressed Plantago lanceolata in terms of growth, survival, and immune response, and additionally were interested to assess whether the gut microbial composition of the larvae changed due to modification of the host plant. We found that larvae fed on water-stressed plants had increased growth, with no impact on survival, up-regulated the expression of one candidate immune gene (pelle), and had a more heterogeneous bacterial community and a shifted fungal community in the gut. Most of the measured traits showed considerable variation due to family structure. Our data suggest that in temperate regions moderate host plant water stress can positively shape resource acquisition of this specialized insect herbivore, potentially by increasing nutrient accessibility or concentration. Potentially, the better larval performance may be mediated by a shift of the microbiota on water-stressed plants, calling for further research especially on the understudied gut fungal community.

]]>
<![CDATA[Sensitivity of the Norwegian and Barents Sea Atlantis end-to-end ecosystem model to parameter perturbations of key species]]> https://www.researchpad.co/article/5c673075d5eed0c484f37b80

Using end-to-end models for ecosystem-based management requires knowledge of the structure, uncertainty and sensitivity of the model. The Norwegian and Barents Seas (NoBa) Atlantis model was implemented for use in ‘what if’ scenarios, combining fisheries management strategies with the influences of climate change and climate variability. Before being used for this purpose, we wanted to evaluate and identify sensitive parameters and whether the species position in the foodweb influenced their sensitivity to parameter perturbation. Perturbing recruitment, mortality, prey consumption and growth by +/- 25% for nine biomass-dominating key species in the Barents Sea, while keeping the physical climate constant, proved the growth rate to be the most sensitive parameter in the model. Their trophic position in the ecosystem (lower trophic level, mid trophic level, top predators) influenced their responses to the perturbations. Top-predators, being generalists, responded mostly to perturbations on their individual life-history parameters. Mid-level species were the most vulnerable to perturbations, not only to their own individual life-history parameters, but also to perturbations on other trophic levels (higher or lower). Perturbations on the lower trophic levels had by far the strongest impact on the system, resulting in biomass changes for nearly all components in the system. Combined perturbations often resulted in non-additive model responses, including both dampened effects and increased impact of combined perturbations. Identifying sensitive parameters and species in end-to-end models will not only provide insights about the structure and functioning of the ecosystem in the model, but also highlight areas where more information and research would be useful—both for model parameterization, but also for constraining or quantifying model uncertainty.

]]>
<![CDATA[Radar detectors carried by Cape gannets reveal surprisingly few fishing vessel encounters]]> https://www.researchpad.co/article/5c648d52d5eed0c484c82586

Fisheries compete with seabirds for vanishing marine resources, but also produce fishery waste consumed by seabirds. Marine birds may therefore avoid or seek fishing vessels, and have evolved complex, plastic behavioural responses to vessel presence. Understanding these responses is essential to the conservation of a globally declining seabird community. We studied Cape gannets (Morus capensis), which compete with fisheries for reduced sardine (Sardinops sagax) resources in the Benguela upwelling region off South Africa. Using bird-borne GPS trackers coupled with newly-developed ship-radar detectors we show that foraging gannets seldom attended fishing vessels. Rather, they switched from eating scarce sardines or energetically-poor fishery waste to targeting locally abundant saury (Scomberesox saurus). This pelagic fish is brought into the seascape by warm water influx, and is not commercially exploited by fisheries. Cape gannets thereby show dietary plasticity, allowing them to maintain adult body condition and chick growth rates. This diet switch is a strong indicator that Cape gannets forage in an ecologically perturbed marine environment.

]]>
<![CDATA[Leave or stay? Video-logger revealed foraging efficiency of humpback whales under temporal change in prey density]]> https://www.researchpad.co/article/5c63392dd5eed0c484ae6172

Central place foraging theory (CPF) has been used to predict the optimal patch residence time for air-breathing marine predators in response to patch quality. Humpback whales (Megaptera novaeangliae) forage on densely aggregated prey, which may induce drastic change in prey density in a single feeding event. Thus, the decision whether to leave or stay after each feeding event in a single dive in response to this drastic change, should have a significant effect on prey exploitation efficiency. However, whether humpback whales show adaptive behavior in response to the diminishing prey density in a single dive has been technically difficult to test. Here, we studied the foraging behavior of humpback whales in response to change in prey density in a single dive and calculated the efficiency of each foraging dive using a model based on CPF approach. Using animal-borne accelerometers and video loggers attached to whales, foraging behavior and change in relative prey density in front of the whales were successfully quantified. Results showed diminishing rate of energy intake in consecutive feeding events, and humpback whales efficiently fed by bringing the rate of energy intake close to maximum in a single dive cycle. This video-based method also enabled us to detect the presence of other animals around the tagged whales, showing an interesting trend in behavioral changes where feeding duration was shorter when other animals were present. Our results have introduced a new potential to quantitatively investigate the effect of other animals on free-ranging top predators in the context of optimal foraging theory.

]]>
<![CDATA[Describing vegetation characteristics used by two rare forest-dwelling species: Will established reserves provide for coastal marten in Oregon?]]> https://www.researchpad.co/article/5c5ca2bed5eed0c48441e9e9

Forest management guidelines for rare or declining species in the Pacific Northwest, USA, include both late successional reserves and specific vegetation management criteria. However, whether current management practices for well-studied species such as northern spotted owls (Strix occidentallis caurina) can aid in conserving a lesser known subspecies—Humboldt martens (Martes caurina humboldtensis)–is unclear. To address the lack of information for martens in coastal Oregon, USA, we quantified vegetation characteristics at locations used by Humboldt martens and spotted owls in two regions (central and southern coast) and at two spatial scales (the site level summarizing extensive vegetation surveys and regionally using remotely sensed vegetation and estimated habitat models). We estimated amount of predicted habitat for both species in established reserves. If predicted overlap in established reserves was low, then we reported vegetation characteristics to inform potential locations for reserves or management opportunities. In the Central Coast, very little overlap existed in vegetation characteristics between Humboldt martens and spotted owls at either the site or regional level. Humboldt martens occurred in young forests composed of small diameter trees with few snags or downed logs. Humboldt martens were also found in areas with very dense vegetation when overstory canopy and shrub cover percentages were combined. In the South Coast, Humboldt martens occurred in forests with smaller diameter trees than spotted owl sites on average. Coastal Humboldt martens may use stands of predicted high quality spotted owl habitat in the Pacific Northwest. Nonetheless, our observations suggest that coastal Humboldt martens exist in areas that include a much higher diversity of conifer size classes as long as extensive dense shrub cover, predominantly in the form of high salal and evergreen huckleberry, are available. We suggest that managers consider how structural characteristics (e.g., downed logs, shrub cover, patch size), are associated with long-term species persistence rather than relying on reserves based on broad cover types. Describing vegetation may partially describe suitability, but available prey or predation risk ultimately influence likelihood of individual Humboldt marten use. Guidelines for diversifying vegetation management, and retaining or restoring appropriate habitat conditions at both the stand level and regionally, may increase management flexibility and identify forest conditions that support both spotted owls and Humboldt martens.

]]>
<![CDATA[Modelling potential habitat for snow leopards (Panthera uncia) in Ladakh, India]]> https://www.researchpad.co/article/5c59febcd5eed0c484135369

The snow leopard Panthera uncia is an elusive species inhabiting some of the most remote and inaccessible tracts of Central and South Asia. It is difficult to determine its distribution and density pattern, which are crucial for developing conservation strategies. Several techniques for species detection combining camera traps with remote sensing and geographic information systems have been developed to model the habitat of such cryptic and low-density species in challenging terrains. Utilising presence-only data from camera traps and direct observations, alongside six environmental variables (elevation, aspect, ruggedness, distance to water, land cover, and prey habitat suitability), we assessed snow leopard habitat suitability across Ladakh in northern India. This is the first study to model snow leopard distribution both in India and utilising direct observation data. Results suggested that elevation and ruggedness are the two most influential environmental variables for snow leopard habitat suitability, with highly suitable habitat having an elevation range of 2,800 m to 4,600 m and ruggedness of 450 m to 1,800 m. Our habitat suitability map estimated approximately 12% of Ladakh's geographical area (c. 90,000 km2) as highly suitable and 18% as medium suitability. We found that 62.5% of recorded livestock depredation along with over half of all livestock corrals (54%) and homestays (58%) occurred within highly suitable snow leopard habitat. Our habitat suitability model can be used to assist in allocation of conservation resources by targeting construction of livestock corrals to areas of high habitat suitability and promoting ecotourism programs in villages in highly suitable snow leopard habitat.

]]>
<![CDATA[Model uncertainty and simulated multispecies fisheries management advice in the Baltic Sea]]> https://www.researchpad.co/article/5c58d61ed5eed0c48403168f

Different ecosystem models often provide contrasting predictions (model uncertainty), which is perceived to be a major challenge impeding their use to support ecosystem-based fisheries management (EBFM). The focus of this manuscript is to examine the extent of model disagreements which could impact management advice for EBFM in the central Baltic Sea. We compare how much three models (EwE, Gadget and a multispecies stock production model) differ in 1) their estimates of fishing mortality rates (Fs) satisfying alternative hypothetical management scenario objectives and 2) the outcomes of those scenarios in terms of performance indicators (spawning stock biomasses, catches, profits). Uncertainty in future environmental conditions affecting fish was taken into account by considering two seal population growth scenarios and two nutrient load scenarios. Differences in the development of the stocks, yields and profits exist among the models but the general patterns are also sufficiently similar to appear promising in the context of strategic fishery advice. Thus, we suggest that disagreements among the ecosystem models will not impede their use for providing strategic advice on how to reach management objectives that go beyond the traditional maximum yield targets and for informing on the potential consequences of pursuing such objectives. This is especially true for scenarios aiming at exploiting forage fish sprat and herring, for which the agreement was the largest among our models. However, the quantitative response to altering fishing pressure differed among models. This was due to the diverse environmental covariates and the different number of trophic relationships and their functional forms considered in the models. This suggests that ecosystem models can be used to provide quantitative advice only after more targeted research is conducted to gain a deeper understanding into the relationship between trophic links and fish population dynamics in the Baltic Sea.

]]>
<![CDATA[Sensitivity of multispecies maximum sustainable yields to trends in the top (marine mammals) and bottom (primary production) compartments of the southern North Sea food-web]]> https://www.researchpad.co/article/5c58d64ed5eed0c484031b3c

In marine ecosystems, maximum sustainable yield considerations are affected by any substantial changes that occur in the top and bottom compartments of the food-web. This study explores how the southern North Sea’s fisheries may need to adjust their fishing efforts to maintain optimum yields of sole, plaice, cod and brown shrimps under increased marine mammal populations and a reduced primary productivity. We constructed plausible scenarios of ongoing food-web changes using the results of Bayesian age-structured population models to estimate carrying capacities of harbour porpoises (Phocoena phocoena) and grey seals (Halichoerus grypus). Losses in primary productivity were predicted by lower trophic level ecosystem models. These scenarios were implemented in a food-web model of the southern North Sea. For each scenario, we sought mixed-fleet fishing efforts that would deliver maximum yields of sole, plaice, cod and brown shrimp combined. We also did so for a baseline run with unaltered mammal and primary production, and compared the differences in optimal fishing strategies, predicted yields, and states of the stocks between the scenarios. We found stocks and yields to be far more sensitive to changes in primary productivity than to increased marine mammal predation. The latter predominantly impacted cod, and even benefitted brown shrimps compared to the baseline run. Under 30% reduced primary productivity, fishing efforts had to be reduced by 50% to still provide maximum yields, whereas the marine mammal scenario induced no need to adjust the fishing regime. This draws attention to the potential gains of incorporating bottom-up processes into long-term management considerations, while marine mammal predation may be less of a concern, in particular for flatfish fisheries in the North Sea, and may even benefit shrimp trawlers because of reduced predation on shrimp from fish predators.

]]>
<![CDATA[Seasonal diet composition of Pyrenean chamois is mainly shaped by primary production waves]]> https://www.researchpad.co/article/5c5217add5eed0c484794364

In alpine habitats, the seasonally marked climatic conditions generate seasonal and spatial differences in forage availability for herbivores. Vegetation availability and quality during the growing season are known to drive life history traits of mountain ungulates. However, little effort has been made to understand the association between plant phenology and changes in the foraging strategies of these mountain dwellers. Furthermore, this link can be affected by the seasonal presence of livestock in the same meadows. The objective of this work was to study the seasonal changes in diet composition of Pyrenean chamois (Rupicapra p. pyrenaica) and its relationship to primary production trends in a Mediterranean alpine environment. Moreover, diet composition in two populations with contrasting livestock pressure was compared in order to study the effect of sheep flocks on the feeding behaviour of chamois. From 2009 to 2012, monthly diet composition was estimated by cuticle microhistological analysis of chamois faeces collected in the eastern Pyrenees. The primary production cycle was assessed by remote sensing, using the Normalized Difference Vegetation Index. Additionally, the diet of sheep sharing seasonally the subalpine and alpine meadows with chamois was analysed. Diet selection of chamois and sheep and their overlap was also assessed. Our results show an intra-annual variation in the diet composition of Pyrenean chamois and demonstrate a strong relationship between plant consumption dynamics and phenology in alpine areas. In addition, Calluna vulgaris, Cytisus spp. and Festuca spp., as well as forbs in the summer, are found to be key forage species for Pyrenean chamois. Furthermore, this study couldn’t detect differences between both chamois populations despite the presence of sheep flocks in only one area. However, the detection of a shift in the diet of chamois in both areas after the arrival of high densities of multi-specific livestock suggest a general livestock effect. In conclusion, Pyrenean chamois are well adapted to the variations in the seasonal availability of plants in alpine habitats but could be disturbed by the seasonal presence of livestock. Due to the key plants in their diet, we suggest that population management programmes should focus on the preservation of mixed grasslands composed of patches of shrubs and herbs. The effects of climate change and shrub expansion should be studied as they may potentially affect chamois population dynamics through changes in habitat composition and temporal shifts in forage availability.

]]>
<![CDATA[Benthic reef assemblages of the Fernando de Noronha Archipelago, tropical South-west Atlantic: Effects of depth, wave exposure and cross-shelf positioning]]> https://www.researchpad.co/article/5c40f79ad5eed0c484386471

Oceanic islands can be relatively isolated from overfishing and pollution sources, but they are often extremely vulnerable to climate and anthropogenic stress due to their small size and unique assemblages that may rely on a limited larval supply for replenishment. Vulnerability may be especially high when these islands bear permanent human populations or are subjected to regular or intermittent fishing. Since the late 1970's, Brazil has been establishing marine protected areas (MPAs) around its four oceanic island groups, which concentrate high endemism levels and are considered peripheral outposts of the Brazilian Biogeographic Province. In 2018, the Brazilian legally marine protected area increased >10-fold, but most of the ~1,000,000 km2 of MPAs around Brazil's oceanic islands are still unknown and unprotected. Here, we provide the first detailed quantitative baseline of benthic reef assemblages, including shallow and mesophotic zones, of the Fernando de Noronha Archipelago (FNA). The archipelago is partially protected as a no-take MPA and recognized by the UNESCO as a World Heritage Site, but also represents the only Brazilian oceanic island with a large permanent human population (3,000 people), mass tourism (up to 90,000 people per year) and a permanent small-scale fishing community. The influence of depth, wave exposure, and distance from the island and shelf edge on the structure of benthic assemblages was assessed from benthic photoquadrats obtained in 12 sites distributed in the lee and windward shores of the archipelago. Unique assemblages and discriminating species were identified using Multivariate Regression Trees, and environmental drivers of dominant assemblages’ components were evaluated using Boosted Regression Trees. A total of 128 benthic taxa were recorded and 5 distinct assemblages were identified. Distance to the insular slope, depth and exposure were the main drivers of assemblages’ differentiation. Our results represent an important baseline for evaluating changes in benthic assemblages due to increased local and global stressors.

]]>
<![CDATA[Network of small no-take marine reserves reveals greater abundance and body size of fisheries target species]]> https://www.researchpad.co/article/5c40f7b9d5eed0c48438674f

No-take marine reserves (NTRs), i.e. areas with total fishing restrictions, have been established worldwide aiming to promote biodiversity and ecosystem conservation. Brazil has 3.3% of its exclusive economic zone protected by 73 different NTRs, however, most of them currently lack scientific knowledge and understanding of their ecological role, particularly regarding rocky reefs in subtropical regions. In this context, this study aimed to contrast a network of NTRs with comparable fished sites across a coastal biogeographic gradient to investigate the effect of fishing and habitat variability on the abundance and body size of rocky reef fish. We used Baited Remote Underwater stereo-Video (stereo-BRUVs) and Diver Operated stereo-Video (stereo-DOVs) systems to simultaneously sample reef fish and habitat. Model selection and results identified habitat and biogeographic variables, such as distance from shore, as important predictor variables, explaining several aspects of the fish assemblage. The effect of protection was important in determining the abundance and body size of targeted species, in particular for epinephelids and carangids. Conversely, species richness was correlated with habitat complexity but not with protection status. This is the first study using these survey methods in the Southwestern Atlantic, demonstrating how a network of NTRs can provide benchmarks for biodiversity conservation and fisheries management.

]]>
<![CDATA[Stomach contents of long-finned pilot whales, Globicephala melas mass-stranded in Tasmania]]> https://www.researchpad.co/article/5c466578d5eed0c48451953b

New data are reported from analyses of stomach contents from 114 long-finned pilot whales mass-stranded at four locations around Tasmania, Australia from 1992–2006. Identifiable prey remains were recovered from 84 (74%) individuals, with 30 (26%) individuals (17 females and 13 males) having empty stomachs. Prey remains comprised 966 identifiable lower beaks and 1244 upper beaks, belonging to 17 families (26 species) of cephalopods. Ommastrephidae spp. were the most important cephalopod prey accounting for 16.9% by number and 45.6% by reconstructed mass. Lycoteuthis lorigera was the next most important, followed by Ancistrocheirus lesueurii. Multivariate statistics identified significant differences in diet among the four stranding locations. Long-finned pilot whales foraging off Southern Australia appear to be targeting a diverse assemblage of prey (≥10 species dominated by cephalopods). This is compared to other similar studies from New Zealand and some locations in the Northern Hemisphere, where the diet has been reported to be primarily restricted to ≤3 species dominated by cephalopods. This study emphasises the importance of cephalopods as primary prey for Southern long-finned pilot whales and other marine vertebrates, and has increased our understanding of long-finned pilot whale diet in Southern Ocean waters.

]]>
<![CDATA[Captive-reared European hamsters follow an offensive strategy during risk-assessment]]> https://www.researchpad.co/article/5c466557d5eed0c484518b18

Understanding whether captive-reared animals destined to reintroduction are still able to discriminate predators has important implications for conservation biology. The endangered European hamster benefits from conservation programs throughout Europe, in which several thousand individuals are released into the wild every year. Despite this, the anti-predator strategy of hamsters and their ability to maintain predator discrimination in captivity remain to be investigated. Here, we explore the predator discrimination behaviour of captive-reared European hamsters and their response to different predation cues. When first exposed to the urine of cats and goats in a Y-maze test, hamsters spent more time close to the cat scent rather than to the goat scent. In a second experiment, during which hamsters were exposed to a non-mobile European ferret (inside a cage), hamsters significantly increased the time spent close to the ferret’s cage and displayed aggressive behaviour towards the ferret. Furthermore, they did not take refuge inside an anti-predation tube (APT), a device designed to upgrade wildlife underpasses and reconnect wild hamster populations. Finally, when exposed to a mobile ferret (but without physical contact), hamsters displayed mobbing and aggressive behaviours towards the ferret, before taking refuge inside the APT. Taken together, our results show that captive-reared hamsters are still able to detect and react to predation cues, but that they initially adopt an offensive strategy (grunting, spitting, mobbing) during the risk-assessment phase. After risk assessment, however, hamsters used the APT as a refuge. Our study provides important insights into the anti-predator behaviour of hamsters. Testing the efficacy of the APT, a device that will allow upgrading wildlife underpasses for the hamster and other rodents, is also of great importance and is instrumental in conservation efforts for these species.

]]>