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Large carnivore species recolonize Europe

Wolves, lynxes and brown bears are among the most charismatic carnivore species in Europe, and they seem to be making a comeback after almost becoming extinct at the end of the past century. What is causing this gradual recolonization of their historical range?

A multi-national team from 11 European countries, including the Doñana Biological Station (EBD-CSIC) investigated if changes in land cover, human population density and protection status were responsible for the expansion of Eurasian lynx, brown bear or grey wolf in Europe in the last 24 years.

Contrary to popular belief, the increasing protection in Europe did not play a significant role in their expansion. According to the study, the factors that positively affect the recovery of these large carnivores are agricultural abandonment and forest encroachment, exodus of human population from rural to urban areas, and decrease in direct persecution. Up until now, the relative importance of these changes for large carnivore distributions at the European scale remained unclear.

"This does not mean that the protected area network is not important for the conservation of these species. It means that its relative importance is lower regarding other factors such as changes in land use or human population density" explains Ana Benítez, researcher at EBD-CSIC and co-author of the study.

The results open new paths to study the role played by society's perception and tolerance toward these species and their expansion, especially in rural areas where there may be conflicts between some socio-economic activities and the conservation of these species. In addition, it would also be interesting to study the importance of other factors that could have also influenced the expansion of large carnivores in Europe, such as the abundance of pray species or the level of compliance with the law regarding direct persecution and illegal hunting.

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Referencia

Cimatti, M et al (2021) Large carnivore expansion in Europe is associated with human population density and land cover changes. Diversity and Distributions. https://doi.org/10.1111/ddi.13219

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Trade-off on shorebird eggshell colouration

Trade-off on shorebird eggshell colouration

In ground-nesting birds egg colour and appearance may have evolved due to opposite selection pressures. Pigmentation and spottiness make the eggs darker and have been suggested to improve camouflage. However darker and more spotted eggs may reach higher temperatures when not attended by adults and receiving direct sunlight, which may be lethal for embryos. Some authors suggested that this trade-off may not exist because eggshell pigments mainly reflect in the infrared region of the solar spectrum, but have not considered that wavelengths in the visible part of the spectrum may also contribute to overheating. To test the occurrence of a trade-off between camouflage and overheating of eggs, digital images were taken to analyse colour and camouflage in 93 nests of four shorebird species in two regions: tropical and mediterranean sites. Authors predicted that these species may have evolved different eggshell designs depending on solar radiation, which is supposed to be stronger in the Tropics. To record egg temperatures, Japanese quail eggs were placed in natural nests of shorebirds, and temperatures were registered using a datalogger. It was found that darker and more spotted eggs reached higher temperatures than lighter ones, and that after controlling for environmental temperatures, eggs overheated more in the Tropics, likely because of a more intense solar radiation. It was also found that tropical shorebirds' eggshells have darker spots and lighter backgrounds. Overall, darker eggs were better camouflaged. Taken together, these results show that the benefits of increasing pigmentation of eggshell backgrounds and spottiness for a better camouflage are counteracted by the increased risks of overheating when eggs remain exposed to direct solar radiation. informacion[at]ebd.csic.es: Gómez et al (2015) A trade-off between overheating and camouflage on shorebird eggshell colouration. J Avian Biol DOI: 10.1111/jav.00736


http://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/10.1111/jav.00736/abstract