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Human footprint and vulture mortality

Events of non-natural mortality in human-dominated landscapes are especially challenging for populations of large vertebrates with K strategies. Among birds, vultures are one of the most threatened groups experiencing sharp population declines due to non-natural mortality. Factors causing non-natural mortality are usually studied separately. However, the potential use of an integrated index able to predict large-scale mortality risks of avian scavengers could be especially useful for planning conservation strategies. Here, the Human Footprint index was used to examine the impact of landscape anthropization on the survival rates of 66 GPS-tagged adult Eurasian griffon vultures (Gyps fulvus) in two Spanish regions. Foraging in more anthropized areas resulted in a significantly higher individual mortality risk mainly due to collisions with vehicles, poisonings, electrocutions and fatalities with wind turbines. Mean yearly survival rates were estimated at 0.817 and 0.968 for individuals from the more and less anthropized regions, respectively. Additional research should investigate whether some vulture populations could be acting as sinks unnoticed due to metapopulation dynamics. From a broader point of view, this study shows that a straightforward Human Footprint was a useful index to predict the survival of top scavengers and can be highly applicable to planning large-scale conservation measures. informacion[at] Arrondo et al (2020) Landscape anthropization shapes the survival of a top avian scavenger. Biodivers Conserv.
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Defaunation precipitates the extinction of evolutionarily distinct interactions in the Anthropocene

Defaunation precipitates the extinction of evolutionarily distinct interactions in the Anthropocene

Species on Earth are interconnected with each other through ecological interactions. Defaunation can erode those connections, yet we lack evolutionary predictions about the consequences of losing interactions in human-modified ecosystems. Here, the fate of the evolutionary history of avian–seed dispersal interactions across tropical forest fragments is quantified by combining the evolutionary distinctness of the pairwise-partner species, a proxy to their unique functional features. Both large-seeded plant and large-bodied bird species showed the highest evolutionary distinctness. A loss of 3.5 to 4.7 × 104 million years of cumulative evolutionary history of interactions due to defaunation is estimated. Bird-driven local extinctions mainly erode the most evolutionarily distinct interactions. However, the persistence of less evolutionarily distinct bird species in defaunated areas exerts a phylogenetic rescue effect through seed dispersal of evolutionarily distinct plant species. informacion[at] Emer et al (2019) Defaunation precipitates the extinction of evolutionarily distinct interactions in the Anthropocene. Sci Adv DOI: 10.1126/sciadv.aav6699