, Volume 48, Issue 1, pp 113-122

Factors shaping European rabbit abundance

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Abstract

This study analyses differences in European rabbitOryctolagus cuniculus (Linnaeus, 1758) abundance between fragmented and continuous populations and the relative importance of habitat structure (micro- and macrohabitat) and isolation in determining the abundance pattern in fragmented and continuous areas of central Spain. The species was mainly restricted to mediterranean vegetation habitat. In fragmented areas, rabbit abundance was linked to scrubland cover but was not correlated to pasture/cropland cover. The model explained very little of the observed variance. Distance to continuous populations did not improve the model. Stochastic phenomena or unmeasured factors (predation level, soil type) could be acting in this context. Rabbits were more abundant in continuous areas than in fragmented ones. In continuous areas, rabbit abundance was associated with mosaics of pastures, scrublands, and croplands. These habitat features are linked to shelter and feeding requirements of rabbits. The model explained an important part of the observed variance. This supports that management and conservation strategies should be based on the landscape pattern in each situation.