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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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Humans shape distribution and habitat use of an opportunistic scavenger

Humans shape distribution and habitat use of an opportunistic scavenger

Research focused on evaluating how human food subsidies influence the foraging ecology of scavenger species is scarce but essential for elucidating their role in shaping behavioral patterns, population dynamics, and potential impacts on ecosystems. This study evaluates the potential role of humans in shaping the year?round distribution and habitat use of individuals from a typical scavenger species, the yellow?legged gull (Larus michahellis), breeding at southwestern Spain. To do this, long?term, nearly continuous GPS?tracking data were combined with spatially explicit information on habitat types and distribution of human facilities, as proxied by satellite imagery of artificial night lights. Overall, individuals were mainly associated with freshwater habitats, followed by the marine?related systems, human?related habitats, and terrestrial systems. However, these relative contributions to the overall habitat usage largely changed throughout the annual cycle as a likely response to ecological/physiological constraints imposed by varying energy budgets and environmental constraints resulting from fluctuations in the availability of food resources. Moreover, the tight overlap between the year?round spatial distribution of gulls and that of human facilities suggested that the different resources individuals relied on were likely of anthropogenic origin. This evidence supports the high dependence of this species on human?related food resources throughout the annual cycle. Owing to the ability of individuals to disperse and reach transboundary areas of Spain, Portugal, or Morocco, international joint efforts aimed at restricting the availability of human food resources would be required to manage this overabundant species and the associated consequences for biodiversity conservation (e.g., competitive exclusion of co?occurring species) and human interests (e.g., airports or disease transmission). informacion[at]ebd.csic.es: Ramírez et al (2020) Humans shape the year?round distribution and habitat use of an opportunistic scavenger. Ecol Evol https://doi.org/10.1002/ece3.6226


https://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/full/10.1002/ece3.6226