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A timeline for the urbanization of wild birds: The case of the lesser kestrel

The Lesser kestrel (Falco naumanni) evolved as a separate species in the Old-World kestrel radiation starting in the late Miocene. Given that the first cities were erected in the Holocene, this urban colonial raptor has only become a major town dweller recently in its evolutionary history. Today, more than 95% of lesser kestrel colonies in Spain and other Mediterranean countries are on buildings, and the remaining few are on rocky outcrops, that may have been the original nesting substrate for this cavity-nesting bird. Lesser kestrel fossils are well represented in cave sites, and their paleontological distribution, spanning from the Early Paleolithic to the Epipaleolithic, agrees well with its current breeding distribution. According to classical sources, such as the works of Columella and Pliny the Elder, and the presence of a skeletal remain in a Roman villa near Madrid, lesser kestrels may have nested in buildings and in urban settings for at least 2000e2500 years. However, there are no surviving colonies in structures older than 1400 years in Andalusia, nor in Spain. For a sample of 349 colonies on ancient buildings, a majority of the structures had been erected between the 15th and 17th centuries, this putting a time limit of about 300-600 years to the existence of those seemingly immemorial colonies. For specific towns and buildings, written references for the presence of lesser kestrel colonies do not go back more than two centuries. In fact, the Cathedral of Sevilla may be the structure with the longest continuous occupation by lesser kestrels recorded up to present time, from 1834 to 2020. Lesser kestrels were possibly too common in human settlements in the past as to be noted as special. This may explain the scarcity of references to the species until the 19th century. In any case, the same lack of information affects the other major Eurasian urban birds, as no timeline exist for the urbanization process of any other bird species. Here authors propose that lesser kestrels became urban breeders when both adequate cavities in buildings and cereal fields, where they capture their invertebrate prey, became available in their breeding range, several millennia ago. However, urban colonies, in contrast with the ones on stable geological substrates, have been forced to move from building to building when older ones became ruinous or were rebuilt, but new structures with suitable cavities became available throughout History. informacion[at] Negro et al (2020) A timeline for the urbanization of wild birds: The case of the lesser kestrel. Quaternary Sci Rev
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Benefits of restoring apex predator populations

Benefits of restoring apex predator populations

The role that apex predators play in ecosystem functioning, disease regulation and biodiversity maintenance is increasingly debated. However, the positive impacts of their presence in terrestrial ecosystems, particularly in human-dominated landscapes, remain controversial. Limited experimental insights regarding the consequences of apex predator recoveries may be behind such controversy and may also impact on the social acceptability towards the recovery of these species. Using a quasi-experimental design and state-of-the-art density estimates, mesopredator abundances were reduced after the restoration of an apex predator, with evidence of resonating positive impacts on lower trophic levels. Specifically, Iberian lynx Lynx pardinus reintroduction was followed by the reduction of the abundance of mesocarnivores (red foxes Vulpes vulpes and Egyptian mongooses Herpestes ichneumon by ca. 80%) and the recovery of small game of high socio-economic value (European rabbits Oryctolagus cuniculus and red-legged partridges Alectoris rufa). The observed mesopredator reduction resulted in an estimated 55,6% less rabbit consumption for the entire carnivore guild. These findings have important implications for the social acceptability of Iberian lynx reintroductions, which crucially depend on the perception of private land owners and managers. Under certain circumstances, restoring apex predators may provide a sustainable and ethically acceptable way to reduce mesopredator abundances. informacion[at] Jiménez et al (2019) Restoring apex predators can reduce mesopredator abundances. Biol Conserv DOI 10.1016/j.biocon.2019.108234