, Volume 18, Issue 14, pp 3687-3704
Date: 05 Jun 2009

Micro-scale distribution of rabbits on Fuerteventura Island

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Abstract

The European rabbit (Oryctolagus cuniculus) is a conservation and social dilemma in the Canary Islands. It is the main prey of endangered species, it causes severe impacts on vegetation, as well as has a considerable hunting economic value but damages agriculture. We assessed drivers of European rabbit habitat selection on Fuerteventura Island (Canary Islands, Spain) in order to understand the ecology and to contribute with data for managing this introduced species. To measure rabbit abundance, we counted the total number of fresh pellets and latrines. We used Generalized Linear Models (GLMs) to analyze the relationship between rabbit abundance and four groups of variables that represented the biological requirements of the species (environmental, food resources, refuges/shelters, and biological interactions). Hierarchical partitioning techniques were used to estimate the explanatory capacity of these different groups of variables. Our model better explained fresh pellet abundance (89% of total deviance) than latrine abundance (57%). Variables related to food resources best explained the abundance of both latrines and pellets. We identified a set of plant species highly correlated with rabbit abundance, which probably makes up the species’ diet. Variables relating to refuge/shelter and the environmental were also relevant. Interactions with other mammals did not strongly affect rabbit abundance on Fuerteventura Island. Mean annual precipitation and temperature were variables that individually best explained abundance, although half of their relevance is shared with others non-environmental variables. Our results provide policy makers and land-managers with applied information on the relationship between rabbit populations and micro-scale components of Fuerteventura.