species ecology and conservation species ecology and conservation

research ( species | space | populations | vulnerability | traffic )


Badgers, Iberian lynx, Eurasian lynx, brown bears, American mink, voles, jaguar, puma, rabbits, wildcats, hyaenas, lions...are between the species I have worked with. Here you can find some examples of the studies on their ecology and conservation and the people with whom I have collaborated. The species in these studies have a central role, because it is of conservation concern or has some particularly interesting traits (tell me one that doesn't!).

Some of these works are basically descriptive, well within the classical natural history tradition. Unfortunately the current system of evaluation of research results penalizes investing time in gathering this basic knowledge. Nevertheless, we all should not forget that more modern and fashionable works heavily rely on a solid knowledge of the natural history of a species, community or ecosystem. Some examples are for example the physical description of the badgers inhabiting Doñana area, their resting dens, or their diet and food habits.

Revilla, E., M. Delibes, A. Travaini, & F. Palomares (1999) Physical and population parameters of Eurasian badgers (Meles meles L.) from Mediterranean Spain. Zeitschrift für Säugetierkunde 64: 269-276.

Revilla, E., F. Palomares & N. Fernández (2001) Characteristics, location and selection of diurnal resting dens by Eurasian badgers (Meles meles) in a low density area. Journal of Zoology, London 255: 291-299.

Revilla, E. & F. Palomares (2002). Does local feeding specialization exist in Eurasian badgers? Canadian Journal of Zoology 80: 83-93




More complex questions arise when the whole picture is composed by many pieces. After accumulating quite some knowledge on badger ecology in a low density area, including their social organization and group living, we proposed a generalized model of spatial grouping which encompassed all the information available, from low to very high density populations. Complex questions requires lots of information, which is only achievable after many years of research by many groups. Another example comes from the PhD of Stephanie Periquet, in which we reviewed the available literature on the potential competition between lions and hyaenas now that the seem condemned to remain in small protected areas but at high densities (being the expected competition mediated by food abundance). Can we expect to keep them both under these conditions in the long run? We found that the coexistence of spotted hyaenas and lions is a complex balance between competition and facilitation, and that prey availability within the ecosystem determines which predator is dominant. Therefore the potential for competitive exclusion exists and should be in the agendas of the managers of protected areas.

Revilla, E. & F. Palomares (2002) Spatial organization, group living and ecological correlates in low-density populations of Eurasian badgers, Meles meles. Journal of Animal Ecology 71: 497-512

Périquet S, H Fritz, E Revilla (2015). The Lion King and the Hyaena Queen: large carnivores interactions and coexistence. Biological Reviews in press doi:10.1111/brv.12152


Photo by Stephanie Periquet (see her amazing portfolio!)



One of the very first relevant questions that we make in species conservation deals with the identification of key resources, including habitats (described by different vegetation types or land uses). Very often, the lack of adequate habitat or a bad combination of them and their fragmentation and isolation are behind population declines. A step further is linking habitat quality with specific resources such as food availability, refuge, human disturbance, competition etc. and distinguishing different moments in the life cycle, such as breeding or dispersal habitats.

Palomares F., M. Delibes, P. Ferreras, J. M. Fedriani, J. Calzada & E. Revilla (2000) Iberian lynx in a fragmented landscape: pre-dispersal, dispersal and post-dispersal habitats. Conservation Biology 14: 809-818

Palomares F., M. Delibes, E. Revilla, J. Calzada & J. M. Fedriani (2001). Spatial ecology of Iberian lynx and abundance of European rabbits in southwestern Spain. Wildlife Monographs 148: 1-36

Revilla, E., F. Palomares & M. Delibes (2000) Defining key habitats for low density populations of Eurasian badgers in Mediterranean environments. Biological Conservation 95: 269-277





Some works deal with problematic species and how to manage them. As in the case of those of conservation concern, a good knowledge of their ecology and natural history is very important if we want to suggest useful management measures. An example is this approach is the PhD of Joaquim P Ferreira on the ecology of domestic cats in the wild. In one of the works we found that their presence, abundance and space use were heavily dependent on human settlements. As a consequence, any strategy aiming at reducing their impact in areas of conservation concern should aim at avoiding the presence of cats in spatially scattered settlements and avoiding any access to human refuse. In this way, the movement of domestic cats would be limited in areas with large patches of natural vegetation providing good conditions for other competing carnivore mammals such as red foxes.

Ferreira JP, I Leitão; M Santos-Reis, E Revilla. (2011) Human related factors regulate the spatial ecology of domestic cats in sensitive areas for conservation. PLoS One 6(10): e25970. doi:10.1371/journal.pone.0025970.